What Can Cause a Pipe to Burst?

broken pipe with frozen ice surrounding it

Pipe Burst Causes

Remember the snow apocalypse of February 2020 here in Texas? But this past February, we were hit with a snowstorm we’re not accustomed to, and the temps were down to zero and below for days.  This created a mess with power lines down and burst pipe repairs for weeks afterward. 

Can a pipe burst from freezing?

Homeowners in this area around Ft. Worth, Texas know to wrap outside water pipes and make sure interior pipes are insulated. Yet, here we were, many of us without electricity and with frozen water pipes. How did that happen?  

Well, as water freezes, its volume expands by 9%, and as it freezes, the frozen water displaces the running water. This increases the pressure inside the pipe exponentially and when this ice, or frozen water, is like that for too long, the water pipe will burst. 

With that, we’re left with burst pipe repairs needed because we’re left with an immense amount of water flowing and pouring out. If you don’t know where the main water shut-off is, more problems are being created.

So, is a burst pipe an emergency?

Yes, a pipe bursting in your home definitely qualifies as a plumbing emergency. Why? A water leak creates damage to your home. The longer a burst pipe repair isn’t done, the more damage it creates, leading to expensive and extensive repairs. It also is giving time for mildew and mold to start and spread. 

How bad is a burst pipe?

When burst pipe repairs aren’t done, even the smallest pipe burst will become major pipe damage. A busted pipe can flood homes, leaving behind all types of damage, including the ceiling, floors, walls, as well as electronics, furniture, and personal belongings, keep reading what you could expect: 

  • The Walls:  First, without immediate burst pipe repairs, the water will damage the exterior and interior walls, and inside the walls. This exposes the electricity in the walls to water, increasing the chance of fire. The wall structure becomes saturated with water, making it weak and vulnerable. 
  • The Ceilings: If the second floors have a burst pipe, repair isn’t done right away, that water saturates the floors and into the lower floors ceiling, damaging light fixtures, insulation, and supporting beams. 
  • The Flooring: A burst pipe will flood the flooring, and carpeting, tile, and wood are damaged or ruined. The flooring will crack, warp, and mildew, leading to mold growth and causing odors and a health hazard is burst pipe repairs aren’t quick enough.
  • The Interior: When pipe burst repairs take too long, the accumulated water in each room will saturate the furniture, the upholstery, and anything in the water’s path. The electrical outlets are exposed to water and can short out, as will any electronics that are plugged into the outlets. 
  • Mold Growth: The evil of all evil things with a burst pipe. Repair should be done as quickly as possible, including drying out anything the water has saturated or creates a breeding ground for mold. Mold is a health hazard, especially for those with breathing issues like asthma or other lung conditions. 

How to tell if you have a burst pipe?

The following six things could indicate that you need burst pipe repairs, the sooner the better: 

1 –WATER PRESSURE

If there is a significant change in water pressure for your morning shower, or the water coming out of any faucet has decreased, you could need burst pipe repairs somewhere within your home’s plumbing system. 

2 –WATERMARKS

If you see watermarks on the ceilings or walls, this is often an indication of a burst pipe. Repairs should be done quickly before it creates more damage to the structure of your home. 

3 –DEPRESSIONS OR SOFT PATCHES 

When the need for an exterior or underground burst pipe repair has gone ignored for too long, it leads to water puddles forming in the yard. This creates damp areas in the yard, any paved areas begin to crack, sink and become unstable, and the lawn in certain spots will flourish to a dark, rich green. Any of these things are reasons to call a professional plumber to inspect the plumbing for possible burst pipe repairs. 

4 –STRANGE ODORS AND SMELL

When water comes out of the faucets discolored or has a strange odor, it could be from the water heater has sediment build-up or from rusty pipes that have busted.

5 –NOISY PIPES

There are several reasons why water pipes can start having loud noises when the faucet is turned on, and one reason could because of the water pressure. When there is a shock wave with high water pressure, then causes the valve to suddenly close and create a whistling noise or a hammering sound.

Mineral deposits in the aerator, faulty washers on the faucets, scale buildup, high water pressure, and other plumbing system faults can cause these noises too. If you’re hearing banging, rattling, or dripping sounds, this often indicates the need for burst pipe repairs and should be inspected by a plumber immediately. 

6 –WATER BILL

If your water bill has suddenly spiked but your water usage habits haven’t changed, you could have a running toilet or faucets dripping. If not, then you probably need burst pipe repair. 

How do you fix a burst pipe?

With this information, you’ll know how to fix a busted water pipe with just soldering equipment, no welding necessary. 

  • Locate the main water line valve and shut the water off. 
  • Open water fixtures on the lower level of your home. This drains any water in the lines and relieves pressure from building up.
  • With a pipe cutter, remove the busted pipe by rotating the pipe cutter around the pipe. As it gradually tightens, it will cut the pipe. With steel wool or sandpaper, remove any burrs off the pipe ends. Position a bucket under the area you cut to catch any water still in the line.
  • Temporarily remove the small screw (the petcock) from the valve. The valve should be installed with the arrow pointing in the same direction the water flows.
  • Cut the appropriate length of copper pipe with a small amount of extra, this will assure a good fitting.
  • Using sandpaper or steel wool, clean inside the pipe end and inside the valve.
  • Spread soldering flux to the pipe end exterior and inside the valve fitting.
  • Slide the valve fitting on the end of the pipe.
  • With safety goggles on, heat the fitting with a propane torch when the fitting and pipe connections. 
  • Push around two inches of solder in the joint at the valve connection to the pipe. The solder will melt from the heat and seep into the connection. Solder all the way around the pipe-valve connection. 
  • With the same technique, solder the new assembly to the waterline. 
  • Replace the petcock (small screw) and open the main water line. Check for any leaks. 

How much does it cost to repair a burst pipe?

There isn’t a flat rate for burst pipe repairs. Depending on what pipe has busted, and where it is busted, the repair can cost as much as $200 per foot. Each plumber will have different rates.  If it is an emergency burst pipe repair, expect to pay more for after-hours. 

How long does a burst pipe take to fix?

Again, it will depend on the damage and the location of the burst pipe repair, but on average, between 2 and 3 hours. 

Does insurance cover a burst water pipe?

Typical homeowner insurance policies cover the cleaning caused by water damage. The burst pipe repairs may be covered if caused by pipes freezing. However, if the heat to the home was turned off, insurance claims for clean-up will likely be declined.