Why Do Pipes Burst? Causes of Bursting Pipes.

Old burst pipe with water leaking

When the temperature drops and the weather becomes frigid, many homeowners and business owners have a common fear: bursting pipes. But it’s not only cold temperatures that cause pipes to burst.

So, why do pipes burst? There are a number of reasons why pipes inside a home or business can experience so much stress that they break open. This can cause major flooding and damage to the property. Yet, there are four main causes of bursting pipes:

  1. Frozen Pipes
  2. Water Pressure
  3. Moving Pipes
  4. Corrosion

Motor City Plumbing and Drain compiled some information for you to better understand some of these common causes and steps to take if you experience bursting pipes.

Freezing Cold Temperatures

Cold weather causes so many issues for homes and businesses alike. But, it can cause serious issues to the water supply pipes. Cold temperatures typically cause things to contract (where heat causes things to expand). When water freezes, it turns to ice and ice has more volume than water. When water freezes inside a pipe, you can expect it to expand which will increase the pressure inside the pipe.

When the pressure builds so much that it needs to escape, water will cause a bursting pipe. This can occur at a weak joint and the pressure will burst outside of the pipe wall. 

How do you prevent frozen pipes? Try turning on a faucet to allow a slow but steady stream of water to escape during extremely cold temperatures. Turning on your faucet may seem like a waste of water but it’ll keep water moving through the pipes and will prevent pressure from building up. 

You can also insulate exposed water pipes with foam pipe sleeves. Additionally, don’t let the temperature in your home or business fall below 55 degrees. Winterizing your home and business could be a critical step to preventing burst pipes.

Issues with Water Pressure

In order for water supply pipes to function properly, it’s important to maintain even and normal water pressure. When there is a significant increase in water pressure, it can lead to a burst pipe or a failed plumbing fixture (like a toilet or faucet!). Pipes won’t be able to contain pressure increases and they’ll rupture. 

If you think your water pressure is too high, use a pressure gauge attached to a sink spout to test it when you turn on the water. The needle will move on the gauge as the pressure rises and it’ll display the water pressure in PSI (pounds per square inch). The average water pressure in hopes ranges between 30-50 psi and, in most cases, shouldn’t exceed 60 psi. If the pressure seems to high, call a plumber to check it and install a pressure reducing valve to adjust the water pressure to safe levels.

Water Hammers & Pipe Movement

Ever heard pipes clanging inside walls or floors? That’s called a water hammer. When water pipes aren’t secured, they can move around inside walls when the water is suddenly turned off or on. As pipes move back and forth, joints can be weakened gradually in the pipe until one fails. When the joint fails, it allows pressurized water to escape causing catastrophic (and expensive) damage to its surroundings.

Corrosion

While pipes are meant to last for a long time and provide decades of useful and reliable service, they won’t last forever. In some cases of corrosion, it’s simply a case of corrosive build up and age that causes a pipe to fail. When the pH of your water is imbalanced it might seem like a minor issue, at first. But, it’s not. Overtime, pH imbalance can take a toll on pipes and cause them to corrode. 

If you have water supply pipes made of galvanized iron and you have hard water, the minerals in the water slowly wear down the galvanized coating (which can also cause lead poisoning). When the galvanized coating is worn down, the iron pipe beneath it is exposed. In time, the iron will rust and it will gradually narrow the pipe’s diameter to a point where water will have a hard time passing through the pipe. The pipe may close itself off and stop water from flowing altogether, or you’ll have a burst pipe

Call a Plumber for a Bursting Pipe

Experiencing a bursting pipe? Freaking out may feel like the best thing to do in that situation but it would be better to call a plumber. Motor City Plumbing & Drain can determine the cause of the burst pipe, fix it, and help prevent future pipes bursting. We’ll inspect your plumbing, determine the water pressure, and make adjustments where necessary. We can also help with water cleanup to remove water and help dry your home. But, if you notice any weird noises in your walls as the temperatures drop, get in touch with us ASAP before you experience a pipe bust.

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