What to Do When a Pipe Bursts (and Before the Plumber Gets There)
Plumbing 101 DIY

What to Do When a Pipe Bursts (and Before the Plumber Gets There)

Gabe Halimi
Gabe Halimi
Gabe Halimi

Catastrophes and natural disasters aside, a burst pipe is the bane of any homeowner’s existence. Winter is a particularly fraught time for weak pipes, when water freezes and expands with incredible force — up to 40lbs per square inch! First things first: if you’re experiencing a pipe burst, call a real plumber. In the meantime, here are a few steps you can take to reduce water damage and prevent future leaks.

Turn off your water main.

Completely switch off your water supply. If you think the leak from the pipe burst may have reached any of the electrical sockets or the fuse box, take precautions and turn off the electricity, too.

If you own a house, you can usually find your main water shut-off valve somewhere in your home. Check your basement, crawl spaces, and areas close to the water heater. If it’s not inside, you can usually find it under a metal lid on your property close to the street.

Drain the faucets — cold taps first.

Once the water supply has been turned off, open your faucets to drain the remaining cold water from the system. (This means flushing your toilets multiples times, too.) This will also reduce the chance of leftover water freezing inside the pipes. Fun fact: it also relieves some of the pent-up pressure in the pipe!

Turn off heat and drain your hot taps.

Now shut off your water boiler and heating system and release all the water from your hot taps.

Let the warm air in.

If your pipe burst or froze from cold weather, let some warm air in. After draining the remaining water from your taps, you might want to turn the heat back on and hike up thermostat, or simply train a hair dryer on the pipe in question. At the very least, do your pipes a solid and open up the cabinet doors where they live to let the warm air circulate.

Clean up the mess.

If you’re lucky enough to know where your leak is coming from, start mopping up excess water to prevent mold and mildew. But before you get everything back to its perfect, pre-burst condition…

Start documenting!

Now that you’ve contained the emergency, start taking photos of the mishap and document any damage to your home and possessions. And don’t throw anything away just yet. You’ll want as much evidence as possible on your side when you contact your insurance company.

Take preventative steps.

So you’ve been through the ordeal of a burst pipe. What can you do to protect your home in the future? Try winterizing your home, like adding insulation to keep rooms and pipes from dipping below the freezing point during the cold months. You can apply pipe sleeves or heat tape to exposed pipes that are especially prone to freezing, such as under the kitchen sink or in the bathroom. (If you’re especially lazy or thrifty, newspaper works too.)

Additionally, pinhole leaks that let cold air in are some of the worst culprits for frozen pipes. The best way to guard against these leaks is to find them when they’re small — a tall order for a regular homeowner. Flo by Moen makes it easy to find and fix these tiny micro-leaks leaks in their earliest stages, before they turn into regular leaks or burst pipes.

And, as we mentioned earlier, let your pipes breathe. Open those cabinet doors and give them access to warmer air from the rest of the house. Even if the house is empty, remember to keep your thermostat set to above 32 degrees. Your pipes will thank you.