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Why Do Pipes Burst? We’ll Tell Ya!
What Causes Burst Pipes?
When most people think about pipes bursting and water rushing out and into their homes, they picture cold winters in northern climates where temperatures drop below freezing. While this is one of the more common reasons for burst pipes, it is not the only one. Before we look at other reasons for burst pipes, let’s discuss why and how freezing temperatures cause this problem for homeowners.
How Freezing Temperatures Impact Pipes
In areas of the home where there are exposed pipes on the exterior, under the crawl space, or in the basement, and which are not properly insulated from the cold, the water inside the pipes can freeze in the colder winter months. As the water freezes, it restricts water flow, causing an increase in pressure inside the pipes.
Any water in front of the ice blockage is slowly pushed forward in the pipes. If water is not running, it has nowhere to go. As a result, the pressure slowly starts to build in the area in front of the ice in the water lines—until it becomes so strong that it blows out a section of the pipe.
Normally, the blowout occurs in a weakened area, like a connection, fitting, or even a weakened part of the pipe. Granted, here in Houston, we do not have to worry too much about freezing temperatures that often. However, you should still take precautions, as we never know when we will have another cold winter with record lows, which could include temperatures below freezing.
Ideally, you should have your plumber make sure all exposed pipes along the exterior of the home, as well as under the crawl space or in your basement, are wrapped in protective insulation. This way, if we do have a record-cold winter with freezing temperatures, you will not have to worry about ice forming in the pipes and causing the lines to burst.
Insulating your pipes also has benefits during the hot Texan summers, as it will keep water temperatures cooler inside cold water lines. This will help conserve water, too, because you will not have to run the cold water as long to get warmer water out of the water lines.
Now that we have discussed how uninsulated water lines can freeze in colder weather, let’s turn our attention to other causes of burst pipes that could affect your home here in Houston at any time during the year.
If you get your water from a well, it is almost always hard water. The hardness of water refers to the calcium and magnesium contained within the water. While these minerals are not harmful to drink, they can cause damage to water lines and faucets in the home. Plus, hard water leaves a white residue on tubs, showers, and dishes.
Over time, the minerals in the hard water will start to build upon the inside walls of the pipes in your home. Eventually, the water flow will become constricted, much like it is when water freezes. Since the water cannot flow correctly, pressure starts to build up in the pipes and will eventually burst.
Solution: If you have hard water, you should consider getting a water treatment system installed that can soften the water and remove the excess calcium and magnesium. This will help prevent the buildup from forming on the interior walls of the water lines and faucets inside the home. Here at Met Plumbing & Air Conditioning, we install whole-house water filtration and treatment systems, depending on what type of solution you need for your home.
Tip: Investing in a water softener system will help save you money over time. Soft water requires using less soap and detergent to do dishes and wash clothes. Plus, you will find you are using less soap, shampoo, and conditioner and notice your skin feels softer.
If you have an older home with metal steel pipes, rust can be a problem and cause burst pipes. As the pipes corrode, the metal becomes thinner, resulting in weakened pipe walls. If there is a sudden increase in water pressure, it can cause this section of the pipe to blow out.
In addition, eventually, the rust will eat all the way through the waterline and create a water leak. While not an actual pipe burst, this small water leak can quickly become your worst nightmare. As the water slowly drips out of the pipe, it is eroding and removes rust from the pipe, making the hole bigger and bigger.
As you might have already guessed, as the size of the hole increases, more water flows into the home, creating more severe water damage. Not only will you have to replace the broken water line but you, also, fix any water damage, like replacing rotting wood, drywall, and damaged insulation.
Solution: To avoid costly water damage repairs, the best solution is to inquire about plumbing repiping services. Repiping your home with modern plumbing pipes will stop the corrosion and rust, as well as get rid of rusty, smelly drinking water. Feel free to contact us to arrange a home consultation appointment to learn about different types of repiping solutions for your home.
Improper Installation/Plumbing Repair
Pipe bursts can occur if they were not installed correctly by a non-professional. While some people might attempt to save money by replacing pipes or doing minor plumbing repairs around the home, there are several things that can go wrong.
One of the more common problems we have encountered is the improper crimping of water line connections. If the connections are crimped too tightly, they can restrict the flow of water.
This can create a higher water pressure on the other side of the crimp and cause the pipe on that side to burst. Even if you installed a PEX pipe, connections must be properly crimped to the right tension without restricting the water flow.
Solution: To ensure repairs to water lines, faucets, and other plumbing is done correctly, it is highly recommended to use one of our professional plumbers.
Worn Out Appliance Water Lines
The water lines used to connect your dishwasher or washing machine do wear out over time. These types of water lines are typically made of wire mesh or rubber, both of which deteriorate. Eventually, the sidewalls on either type of water line can weaken and result in a burst section.
Solution: You should get into the habit of inspecting your washing machine hoses at least twice a year and replacing them every five years. After five years, the likelihood of the rubber hose bursting starts to increase significantly. For dishwasher water lines, you should replace mesh piping with either copper or PEX piping and have this installed by a professional.
Improper Water Pressure
Many newer homes have a water pressure gauge—a pressure switch that can be manually adjusted. Sometimes, people will turn the water pressure up, like if they are power washing their driveway, siding, or pool deck, and then forget to turn the pressure back down. The increased water pressure on interior water pipes inside the home can cause pipes to burst unexpectedly.
Solution: Avoid turning up the water pressure, and you will not have to worry about this problem. If you need increased water pressure for outdoor tasks, we would be happy to discuss viable solutions, like splitting a water line and installing a separate pressure gauge you can use on exterior lines, while not risking damage to interior piping.
Call Our Team at the First Sign of Trouble With Your Pipes
To summarize, burst pipes are not only caused by ice forming inside water lines in the cold winter months but, also, by a variety of other reasons, which can occur year-round. For emergency plumbing repair, home repiping services, water filtration and softeners, hot water heaters, and other affordable plumbing services in the Greater Houston Area for your home, please feel free to contact Met-Plumbing & Air Conditioning.
Give our team a call at (281) 603-9949 or send us a message online to get a free quote or schedule your service today!