When you own your home, you take on responsibility for all of the repairs on the property. These can become costly, and with some simple steps, you can recognize problems and avoid expensive repairs. One troublesome and expensive issue that can occur is a pipe burst. You will not only have to fix the pipes, but you will have to repair any water or flood damage. Here are some tips on preventing flooding from burst pipes or water heater explosions.
What Causes Pipes to Burst?
One reason pipes burst is because the water inside of the pipes freezes. Frozen water expands, causing the pipes to burst. Water generally freezes at 32 degrees, but it can happen in warmer weather, too, in the right circumstances. We know freezes are pretty rare in Austin, but it does happen a few times per year.
Cold weather isn't the only reason that pipes can burst. For older homes with galvanized steel pipes, they can become clogged with sediment making the pipe susceptible to bursting. Newer homes use copper, PEX, or PVC pipes. Foundation settling and movement of your pipes can also cause pipes to burst. The pipe connections can also break if not sealed or connected with the proper materials and equipment.
Finally, poor installation can also create problems. Selecting and using an unlicensed or unverified plumber can save money on the initial project, but often causes problems later on. Always look into your plumber before hiring them by reading reviews online or asking friends and family for recommendations. When you do get pipes installed, be sure to ask about a warranty that comes with the work.
How Can You Tell if Your Pipes Might Burst?
One of the most prominent signs of frozen pipes is the water running very slowly. Slow water can be caused by ice in your pipes. If you notice it getting worse and temps are near or below freezing, take action right away. You should also look for any frost on your pipes. If you don't have easy access to your pipes, call a licensed plumber.
Be mindful of what areas in your home are most vulnerable. Pipes on the exterior walls of your property or in garages or sheds are closest to the cold, so they are the most likely to freeze first.
What Can You Do to Prevent Burst Pipes?
There are several things you can do to help protect your pipes from bursting.
1. Get your pipes and home insulated
Insulate your home to keep outside air outside and the inside air inside. Insulation prevents cold weather outside affecting your home. You can also insulate your pipes. Your local licensed plumber can help you accomplish this.
Getting your pipes insulated is common in the Northern states where cold weather is frequent. It's not as common in Southern states where the temperature is generally warmer.
2. Keep the heat on when you leave
Many people turn the heat off when they leave to save money. Leaving your thermostat set low is especially common when people go on vacation. Water damage will cost far more than keeping your furnace set at a reasonable temperature. Keep the heat on while you're gone to keep your home and pipes from freezing. Many people suggest not letting the temperature in your home get lower than about 60 degrees.
3. Check your water heater and get repairs done immediately
Often, people need to prioritize items to fix in their homes. Your water heater should always be at the top of the list. Not only are cold showers in the winter horrible, but water heater explosions can also cause water and other damage to your home and surrounding structures.
4. Replace damaged plumbing
Plumbing doesn't last forever. The age depends on several factors, but you can tell when it needs to be replaced when you notice leaks or a large amount of rust. Get the repairs done before the winter starts since that is a more stressful time on plumbing.
5. Keep kitchen and bathroom cabinets doors open
While it might not seem like much, it can be helpful to keep the cabinets open and allow the warm air in your home to hit the pipes and keep them warm.
Keeping Leaks From Turning into Floods
You may get lucky and only experience a small leak before you have a real problem. Take action immediately before the problem escalates. First, turn off the master valve in your home. As more pressure is applied, the bigger the leak can become. Document any damage that has already occurred if you need to file a claim with your insurance company. Finally, you need to call a licensed plumber to investigate and fix the leak.
What to Do if Your Pipes Burst
Sometimes, you don't realize you have a problem until it's too late.
If a pipe has already burst, you want to stop the water from flowing as soon as possible. Turn off the water supply right away to prevent further plumbing damage. Next, call a licensed plumber right away. If you have water damage, after the plumber fixes the problem, you will have to repair the damage caused. Contact a water damage restoration company.
A burst pipe can be an absolute nightmare, but there are steps you can do to avoid a disaster. Follow the advice above to prevent it from happening preemptively. By keeping your home heated and your pipes insulated, you should be safe.
Be sure you have an emergency plumber and a water restoration company's contact information handy in the case of a burst pipe or flood.