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Your Pipes Burst! What Do You Do First? Expert Tips to Save Your Home

January 29, 2021

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Winter is officially upon the Northeastern part of the nation, and with it comes subfreezing temperatures that are notorious for bursting water pipes. The best way to save your home from the destruction that accompanies a burst pipe is to prevent it in the first place, but if you’re too late and you need an emergency solution, you’re in the right place. Here’s what to do if your pipes burst - and how to prevent it from ever happening again. 

Why Do Pipes Burst in the Winter?

If you’ve ever put a bottle of water or a can of soda in your freezer - or if you’ve ever left one of these in your car overnight in subfreezing temperatures - then you’ve probably noticed that the can or bottle changes shape as the liquid inside freezes. Liquids expand when they freeze, which causes them to push outward on their containers, and if the pressure isn’t relieved, then the container will eventually burst open. 

This is exactly what happens inside your water pipes, too. Water that is sitting inside the pipe expands as it freezes, but unlike a thin plastic bottle or aluminum can, your pipes have very little give. Instead of changing shape to accommodate the growing volume, they simply burst due to the pressure. 

First Steps to Dealing with a Burst Water Pipe

A burst water pipe can cause thousands (if not tens of thousands) of dollars in damage if it is not addressed immediately. If a water line in your home has burst, the first step is to shut off the water that goes to that pipe. If you cannot find the shutoff valve, you may need to contact your water company and ask them to shut it off at the meter outside until the issue has been resolved. The very next step is to contact an experienced plumber who can not only repair the broken pipe but who can also provide solutions for preventing another burst pipe in the future. 

Preventing Frozen Water Lines in the Future

Water lines freeze when they are exposed to cold air, so the most important way to prevent future issues involves insulating your pipes in a way that keeps them away from subfreezing air.  In extremely cold situations, there are some additional steps you can take to prevent freezing. These include:

  • Leaving cabinet doors open. This way, the pipes and the water inside them stay warmer, which reduces the chances of freezing. 
  • Using heat tape. If you live in an area that is especially cold in the winter, investing in heat tape to wrap around your pipes is a fantastic idea. 
  • Letting the faucet drip. Though it isn’t a good idea to let the faucet drip for days on end, if the forecast calls for one extremely cold night, allowing even a slow drip all through the night can drastically reduce the odds of a burst water pipe. 

A burst water line is a dreadful experience, and it’s one that can lead to expensive repairs both now and in the future. Remember to shut the water off as quickly as possible and then reach out to a plumber to replace the burst section of pipe before turning the water back on. Better still, insulate your pipes and use the tips above as preventative measures. A small investment now can prevent some huge repair bills in the future. 


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