Why Do Pipes Burst?
As far as plumbing emergencies go, burst pipes are among the most severe. Flooding and water damage can be the least of your problems if a pipe bursts in the wrong place, with damage to your home’s foundations being a real risk. Repairing a broken pipe might not be so bad compared to the expense of replacing ruined walls, flooring or concrete footings.
Happily, burst pipes are an uncommon sight around modern homes. And, with a bit of understanding of what causes pipes to burst, most homeowners can avoid disaster with a watchful eye and some preventative maintenance. Let’s look at some of the most common reasons for burst pipes and how to prevent them.
Possibly the leading cause of burst pipes, corrosion and rust slowly eat away at metal pipes, eventually causing them to leak or erupt.
Steel was a popular choice for plumbing in older homes, and sooner or later, the water eats away at even the toughest coatings. There is little to be done for a home with old galvanised steel pipes except to remove and replace the old plumbing. The metal can’t last indefinitely, and preventative measures are your best protection against a significant failure.
With the rise in the popularity of PVC and other plastics, most newer homes will never suffer from a burst pipe due to corrosion. It’s worth noting that the copper pipes carrying your hot water are unlikely ever to suffer this type of failure. Copper doesn’t rust the same way steel and iron do, and while it may develop leaks around joints, the pipes’ walls should not thin to the point of bursting.
The pipes in your home are only designed to carry a maximum amount of water pressure, and exceeding that figure can lead to significant failures and burst pipes.
In Australia, most plumbing is rated to handle a maximum pressure of 500kPa (about 70psi). Whether you’re connected to town water or a well on the property, PVC and copper plumbing can handle the pressures involved. Instead, the danger of excessive water pressure typically comes from problems in the home, namely pipes with failing joints or restricted flow rates.
Pipes filled with debris, such as hair and soap, cooking fats, tree roots or mineral deposits, will constrict the water flow and cause the pressure to increase. Likewise, poorly installed plumbing can also restrict flow and pose a threat. Pay attention to the water pressure when you turn on a tap. If it seems excessive, it may be time to clean your pipes. Plumbers carry special tools and inspection cameras to clean long pipes and clear any blockages, returning your pipework to normal before disaster strikes.
On most building sites, external plumbing is laid in the ground following strict guidelines. Trenches are dug, prepared with sandy bedding and then backfilled tightly to reduce the risk of soil movement.
But over time, especially if your neighbours are doing construction work or have large trees growing in the yard, the soil around your pipes can shift and cause leakages and bursts. Underground leaks are hard to detect and locate, but digging to find the problem will increase the repair cost.
Wherever possible, you should avoid planting trees near runs of pipe, and you should keep a copy of the property’s plumbing layout that can be used for reference by any builders working in the area. A good builder will already have a copy of that information, but it never hurts to have it on hand, just in case.
If you do begin to see signs of an external leak — such as flooded areas of the yard or the smell of sewage — you need to contact a plumber immediately. Repairing a burst pipe before it worsens could save you thousands of dollars in damage, and it could mean cheaper technologies like trenchless repair are a viable option.
Need an Emergency Plumber? Contact Botanical Plumbing Today!
A burst pipe can spell disaster and lead to significant damage. If you see signs of flooding or water damage around your home, immediately turn off the water supply and contact us for emergency help. Get in touch with Botanical Plumbing anytime; our expert team will be there as soon as possible.