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What to Do for a Burst Pipe Emergency

Causes of Burst Pipes

Plumbing can break for any number of reasons, a cracked foundation that’s shifted, freezing during the winter, age, construction, or a sudden increase in pressure are all capable of destroying the plumbing in your home.  Burst pipes may bring to mind the image of sudden explosive breaks with gallons of water per second pouring into your home but the truth is much milder.

While a burst pipe can flood your home quickly, many of them leak water slowly, with your first clues that anything is wrong being a drip from the ceiling, floor puddles, sagging walls, or bulging ceiling spaces.  A burst pipe is really any major leak that’s not a leaking connector.  That includes all piping and pipes connected to major appliances such as your washing machine, dish washer, or hot water heater.

Dangers from Burst Pipes and Other Floods

So here’s the issue, flooding and water damage seem bad enough when you’re dealing with a burst pipe (or heavy storms) but there are other dangers involved that you may not be aware of.  Any water can carry contaminants.  If a black water line is the source of the leak, the pooling water can carry contagions and health hazards.  Everything from chemical drain cleaners to human waste can drain out leaving you with a caustic or smelly mess.

All of that water, regardless of its source, becomes living paradise for microorganisms such as bacteria and mold.  The high humidity from flooding soaks into the walls, floors, and furniture, quickly leaving you with widespread mold and mildew problems.  This is especially true of in-wall leaks from burst pipes.  The dark spaces and absorbent insulation are breeding grounds for mold, allowing it to grow and spread rapidly.  Pooling water is also a possible hatchery for insects which can have lain dormant in corners and carpets.

You should never go near any water while power is still active in the room.  Do not touch any electrical device even if the light seems to be working just fine.  Always turn off all electrical devices at your electrical panel before entering the room.  The contaminants in the water make an excellent electrical conductor, leaving you with nasty shocks, burns, or a full home-electrical fire from shorted cables and connections.

Always be aware, if at all possible, of the source of the water.  If you are seeing rushing water, avoid anything that could come from your water heater.  Electric water heaters carry obvious risks of shock, but water coming from a burst heating pipe will deliver scalding water.  It’s much easier to deal with home water damage than it is to be treated for severe burns from scalding water.

Action Plan

So what can you do to deal with burst pipes or flooding water?

  • Know where you water main is – at the first sign of a burst pipe, shut off the water
  • Keep your basement sump-pump working – if it fails, use a wet/dry vac to pump the water out while you wait for a repair
  • During the winter, protect your pipes from freezing by letting them drip and insulating any exposed pipes
  • Insulate your cold water tank
  • If you’re leaving for an extended period, turn off the water and drain the system
  • Never increase water pressure at the pump without a professional to test the system

When a room has already flooded:

  • Turn off water at the main source
  • Turn off electrical power to the room at your electrical panel
  • Avoid direct skin contact with the water
  • Pump out the water and dry or ventilate the room to remove excess humidity
  • Find the source of the flooding and call a plumber to repair any pipes
  • Remediate mold and water damage quickly to avoid future problems

Metro Plumbing, Heating, and Air Conditioning is the service company you want!  Call us today at (423) 616-1025!

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