Physics isn’t kind to frozen pipes. When water freezes, it expands. When that water is trapped inside a copper pipe, it’s got to go somewhere. Depending on where it occurs, a burst pipe could be a nuisance or catastrophic. Either way, you’ll want to act quickly.
We’ve explained how to protect your pipes from freezing and how to thaw a frozen pipe but if it’s too late and your pipe has already burst, we’re here to help stop the flow. With a few quick actions, you can spare yourself from an artic sea forming across your home.
Do Frozen Pipes Always Burst?
No. If you notice your pipes freezing during a Texas cold snap, there are steps you can take to prevent them from exploding on you. Here’s how to prevent pipes from bursting in your home or business:
- Relieve the pressure. Open faucets and let a trickle of water drip out. This moving water will prevent the pipe from fully freezing up.
- Warm pipes. Open doors, turn up heat, use a hair dryer or space heater. Whatever the method, make sure your frozen pipe starts to warm. Never use a torch or open flame and make sure your faucets stay open so the thawing water has somewhere to go.
- Insulate affected area. To prevent pipes from freezing in the future, especially in exposed areas, add insulation.
The American Red Cross has more good tips on preventing pipes from freezing along with how to manage frozen pipes.
Recognize When a Water Pipe Bursts
Even though it’s the ice that expands inside your pipe, it will often burst where water pressure has built up. That trapped water has nowhere to go. This can occur inches or feet from the frozen section.
Bursts aren’t always geysers of water spilling across your floor. They can begin as small leaks at weakened points in your plumbing system. Watch for these signs:
- Puddles of water
- Stains on walls or ceiling
- Dripping sounds
- Change in water pressure.
If you identify a burst pipe, follow the steps below.
What to Do If a Pipe Bursts: 8 Steps
1. Shut off the water.
Don’t take chances, shut of your home’s water supply at the main valve. You should find your shut off valve near your water meter where the water supply enters your home. Turn the valve all the way off so no new water can enter your home. Valves can be knob or lever style.
2. Shut off electricity.
If the water is flowing in your walls where electrical lines run, turn off the power to prevent electrical shock and shortage.
3. Call a plumber.
Unless you’re comfortable doing the work yourself, engage a plumber right away. You won’t be able to turn your water back on until the pipe is repaired.
4. Turn on faucets/flush toilets.
If you haven’t already, turn on your faucets to relieve any existing pressure within your plumbing system. Flush toilets to reduce strain on the water supply line connected to them.
5. Clean up the water.
Do damage control to minimize the amount of possessions, furniture etc. that get wet. Move items out of the affected area to dry it as quickly as possible. Besides minimizing property damage, you want to prevent mold and mildew from forming.
6. Document the damage.
Once things feel under control, take pictures and itemize the damages for your insurance company. Water damage and mold clean up account for $2.5 billion annually in the U.S. with the average cost of frozen pipe damage at $8,189. Make sure your claim is fully documented.
7. Warm pipes/open doors.
If there is ice in your system, especially in crawl spaces, attics or basements where heat doesn’t always reach, make sure warm air reaches the affected pipes. See our tips for thawing pipes.
8. Apply a repair sleeve.
You can temporarily cover the burst pipe with a pipe sleeve or piece of rubber. Think of it like an Ace bandage for plumbing. If using rubber, wrap it around the pipe and clamp it between two pieces of wood to prevent crushing the pipe. This will stop water drips until repairs are made.
Your Dallas Emergency Plumber for Burst Pipes
If you’re worried about a pipe bursting in your home or already have a plumbing emergency, contact Ben Franklin immediately. Our team answers 24/7 for all your unforeseen plumbing crises. We know how stressful a burst pipe can be in your home or business and our certified technicians are ready to help.