Bursting Pipes this Winter Season? | Russell & Lemay

The winter time sees more bursting pipes than any other season of the year, and the bills can be dramatic. As pressure mounts and temperatures plummet, bursting pipes are a common occurrence. Fortunately, you have a reasonable level of control over whether or not your pipes burst, and you can take steps to minimize this likelihood. There are some things you can do to minimize the damage to your home if your pipes end up bursting.

How Do Bursting Pipes Occur?

When the weather becomes cold, pipes full of water tend to accumulate greater amounts of pressure. When water freezes, this newly formed ice expands and presses outward on the inside of the pipes. Since the ice has formed within the pipes and cannot move through the faucet, the ice has nowhere to go but outward. This added stress can eventually overcome even stronger pipe materials such as copper, brass or galvanized steel, causing them to burst under the pressure. The most vulnerable materials are PVC and CPVC, which are vinyl-based and rigid. It is important to remember that pipes can burst during the summer and underground, as well as during the winter.

How Bad Are Bursting Pipes?

When a pipe bursts, you have a serious problem on your hands. In the best case, you end up wasting water if the burst pipe is underground. If the pipe bursts within your walls or above a ceiling, you can end up with a channel of rotted beams and moldy drywall as the burst pipe continues to leak water over time. It is important to keep in mind that once the pipe bursts, it will leak continually until either the flow of water is shut off to it or it is repaired or replaced. Anywhere the water flows will need to be dried thoroughly, and then any affected materials may need rot or mold damage repair.

Can You Repair Burst Pipes Yourself?

Repairing bursting pipes is a job best done by the professionals, but in some cases there are ways to minimize the damage. If you know precisely where the pipe burst, you may be able to deactivate the flow of water at the nearest shut-off. If a drain pipe burst, simply not using the water fixture that drains through it can be enough to minimize the damage temporarily. Silicone tape can often be applied with enough strength and self-adhesion to keep the pipe from leaking further. However, this may not constitute a permanent repair, and should not be trusted as the only solution to a burst pipe.

How Do You Stop Pipes From Bursting?

To a certain extent, pipe bursting is simply a hazard of home ownership. With enough time and the pressures that water pipes endure, eventually they will all burst. However, you can keep your pipes reasonably unlikely to burst by ensuring that they are above freezing at all times. If a pipe is near an exterior wall, insulating it, using heat tape and opening up any access panels that will let in heated air can reduce the chances of the pipe bursting. If you want to run the water to ensure the pipes do not burst, run the faucets at a steadily trickling “line” that will not result in the drain line accumulating too much slowly freezing water and becoming clogged with ice.

When Your Pipes Have Burst

Once your pipes have burst, the first thing you would be wise to do is identify the point at which the pipe has burst, then, call a professional like Russell & Lemay.

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