What to do when pipes burst

As temperatures fall below freezing, your water pipes can freeze, which blocks the flow of water. If you don't thaw the pipe and relieve the built-up pressure, you could end up with a burst water pipe. It's critical to find and get a burst pipe fixed immediately to mitigate water damage to your house. Follow these steps when a water pipe bursts in your house.

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What are the signs of a burst water pipe?

Recognizing the signs of a burst pipe early can be crucial in preventing significant water damage. Here are some signs that you may have a burst pipe:

  • Unusual sounds: You hear hissing, whistling, or banging sounds in the walls
  • Visible water damage: New water stains on your ceiling, walls, or floors
  • Reduced water pressure: A sudden decrease in water pressure throughout your home
  • Water sounds when no tap is running: You hear water flowing or dripping sounds when no tap is in use

What steps to take right away when pipes burst?

  1. Shut off the main water supply

    Shut off the main water supply to your house to prevent further flooding. Open all the faucets and flush all the toilets to relieve the pressure in the pipes.

  2. Assess the situation safely

    If the burst pipe has caused extensive water damage, or if electrical systems are at risk, you may want to evacuate before anyone is seriously injured.

  3. Call a professional plumber

    Do not attempt to repair a burst pipe yourself as this can lead to more damage. Call a licensed plumber immediately. They can repair the pipe correctly and prevent further problems.

  4. Document for insurance

    Take photos of the damage for a possible insurance claim and contact your insurance company quickly to report the incident.

  5. Begin water cleanup promptly

    Start getting rid of the standing water as soon as it's safe. Use buckets, towels, or a wet-dry vacuum. Acting quickly can help prevent mold growth and future damage.

  6. Circulate air and dry out the area

    Use fans and dehumidifiers to dry out the affected are. Good ventilation is key in reducing moisture and preventing mold.

  7. Prevent pipe bursts in the future

    Ask your plumber about what you can do to prevent pipe bursts in the future, and whether insulating your pipes or installing a water leak detection system can help prevent future plumbing disasters.

Pro tip:

A water pipe burst in your house can also lead to increased water bills. If the leak starts small and goes unnoticed for a while, your furniture and electronics can get ruined, and you may face relocation costs if the damage is severe enough that you're forced to leave your house.

How much damage can a burst water pipe do?

A pipe burst in a house spews gallons of water in places it does not belong. This can cause significant damage depending on how much water leaked, where the leak occurred and how long it went undetected. Examples of the damage a burst pipe can do includes:

  • Water damage to your house's structure and interior surfaces: Water from the leak can seep into walls, ceilings, floors, the foundation, and cause a basement flood, which can weaken the structure's integrity. A deluge of water from a burst pipe can collapse a ceiling or walls.
  • Damage to electrical systems: A burst pipe can cause water to contact electrical outlets and other wiring leading to short circuits, potential electrical fire, or the risk of electrocution.
  • Mold and mildew: Residual moisture from a burst pipe can lead to mold and mildew growth which can cause health problems such as allergies and respiratory issues. Mold remediation can be time consuming and expensive.
  • Insurance claims and potential increased premiums: If a pipe burst is sudden and accidental your homeowners insurance may cover it, but you'll have to file a claim.
  • Plumbing repairs and restoration costs: The cost of repairing the pipe and restoring the home after flooding damage, which might include repairing floors, walls, ceilings, and other areas can be costly.

Burst pipe insurance claim tips

Here are some tips to follow for the claims process:

  1. Take pictures of the damaged areas including wet walls, soaked carpets and water damaged furniture and electronics.

  2. Collect receipts for repairs, temporary housing expenses and notes from your interactions with your insurance company.

  3. Consider hiring a professional water damage restoration and mold removal service.

How might your homeowners insurance cover water damage from a pipe burst?

Your homeowners insurance policy may cover water damage from a pipe burst if it was sudden and accidental. If the pipe burst due to neglect or lack of maintenance, your homeowners policy typically won’t cover the damage. Read more about how homeowners insurance may cover plumbing damage and how homeowners insurance may cover water damage to your home.

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