The pipes that run throughout your home and under your property get a lot of use each day and over time experience a lot of wear and tear. Plumbing pipes are an integral part of every home, although they're often taken for granted until a clog or leak occurs. When enough pressure builds up inside a pipe and causes it to burst, the damage and property loss can be catastrophic.
Homeowners experienced over 10,000 water damage losses between 2013 and 2017. Water damage ranks as the most severe loss for homeowners based on claims filed with insurance companies. Leaking or burst pipes cause mold and mildew growth, ruin personal property, and can compromise the structural integrity of your home. Protecting your home and property from water damage should be a top priority.
Causes of Burst Pipes
Pipes can burst for several reasons, from weather to environmental changes and more. Here are nine common reasons why pipes fail:
Even people who live in more temperate climates can occasionally experience frozen pipes. As the water inside pipes cools down and reaches the freezing point (32 degrees Fahrenheit), it starts to slowly freeze.
It’s easy to miss the initial warning signs of a freezing pipe since water can still pass through a pipe, although at a much slower pace. As water freezes in one area of a pipe, pressure builds. When the pressure becomes too much, the pipe will eventually burst. Water sprinkler lines, pipes in unheated crawl spaces or attics, or those that run parallel to poorly insulated external walls are most likely to freeze. Homeowners should properly insulate water pipes and monitor them when temperatures fall below freezing.
2. Tree Roots
Root systems growing in your yard can cause pressure on your pipes, especially in compacted soils. This excess pressure can lead to pipes cracking and leaking. As trees grow larger, their roots extend further and further into the soil and are attracted to underground water and sewer lines.
Water pipes are rarely strong enough to stop invasive tree roots from taking hold. Once roots invade an underground pipe, they continue to grow and apply pressure to the pipe until it eventually bursts open.
To prevent this from happening, it’s important to plant trees and shrubs as far away from underground water pipes as possible. If you suspect roots have already invaded your water lines, a plumber can use a camera probe to inspect your lines for clogs and breaks.
3. Old Age, Rust, and Corrosion
Constant exposure puts metal pipes at risk of corrosion. Over time, metal plumbing pipes age and can develop rust that weakens pipe walls, joints, and seals. This corrosion eats away at pipes, creating small cracks and can eventually lead to a complete rupture.
Discoloration or warping in pipes are signs of corrosion. Yellow or brownish water coming out of your faucets is another common sign of rusted plumbing. If you notice discoloration or warping in your pipes or have discolored water, it’s time to call a plumber to assess the situation.
When a clog forms inside a pipe, it can cause pressure to build up. When a water line remains clogged, water continues to back up. This causes higher water pressure in your piping system and can easily lead to small leaks and eventually a complete rupture. Even a small clog left unresolved can cause damage.
If you have a clog you can’t easily resolve on your own, call a plumber to remove it before it becomes a more costly problem. Installing inexpensive mesh drain covers in showers, tubs and sinks helps prevent clogs from forming in the first place.
5. Hard Water
Water contains a variety of naturally occurring minerals. An overabundance of magnesium and calcium is referred to as “hard water.” Hard water is usually safe to drink but it can cause plumbing and appliance problems. Minerals can build up inside pipes and slow the flow of water, eventually corroding and weakening pipes.
The best way to prevent the damage hard water causes is to install a water treatment system that removes the calcium and magnesium from water.
6. Shifting Soil Conditions
Underground water pipes can be damaged by changes in soil conditions. This often happens when construction or landscaping is done. Seismic activity can also cause the earth around pipes to shift and put pressure on them, which increases the risk of a burst pipe.
Fluctuating temperatures can also cause pipes to expand and contract very quickly, which may lead to damage. This is most likely to happen when underground pipes are not buried deeply enough.
7. High Water Pressure
Excessive water pressure in a home is a major cause of pipe damage, leaks, and wasted water. Water pipes are designed to withstand a certain maximum level of water pressure.
If you suspect your water pressure is too high, you can measure it with a hose bib gauge, available at most hardware stores for around $10. Attach it to an outside spigot and open the line. Normal pressure will register between 50 and 80 PSI (pounds per square inch). If your home’s water pressure is too high, a plumber can install a pressure-reducing valve to adjust it down to safer levels.
8. Accidental Damage
Sometimes, simple human error is the cause of a burst pipe. Exposed pipes in basements and utility rooms should never be used for hanging items. Even lightweight items can put stress on pipes and eventually lead to cracks or complete ruptures.
It’s also common for people to accidentally break a water pipe inside a wall or underground while doing home renovations or landscaping work. Before any home remodeling or landscape projects are done, it’s important to have underground pipes located and marked by calling 811 “Call Before You Dig.”
9. Poor Installation
A lesser-known cause of burst pipes is poor installation which can happen when they are installed by someone without professional training and experience. A bad soldering job or loose connections can easily lead to a burst pipe. It’s important to have any pipe installed or repaired by a licensed plumber.
Take Immediate Action for Burst Pipes
If a pipe does burst in your home, it’s important to take action quickly to minimize damage. The first step is to turn off your home’s main water supply. If it’s safe, turn off electrical appliances near the leak. Clean up excess water and remove personal property if possible. And of course, call for professional help right away.
Repairing a burst pipe requires both plumbing and soldering skills and the right tools. Hiring an experienced plumber is the best way to ensure repairs are made quickly and accurately.
Your home’s plumbing system isn’t something you want to take a chance on. When you need to have your pipes repaired or replaced, the best solution is to call a licensed plumbing professional.
The professionals at Simply Green Plumbing, Sewer & Rooter have the training and experience to handle all of your plumbing needs. Call us at (408) 716-1686 or contact us online to schedule an appointment.
Our technicians have over 30 years of plumbing experience. We understand that plumbing emergencies can happen at any time, that’s why we offer emergency plumbing services at no extra cost.