A number of factors can cause a pipe to burst, but the main cause is usually freezing temperatures. When the temperature drops below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, water pipes without insulation can freeze and break. A pipe bursting occurs when the water inside freezes and becomes ice, causing it to expand. This puts a lot of pressure on the interior of the pipe. Generally, the soft copper parts of the pipe are the first to give in to the pressure and break.
How to Prevent Freezing Pipes
- The pipes that are most likely to freeze are those located near an outside wall. A properly working heating system that spreads the flow of air evenly throughout your home will prevent these specific areas of your home from becoming cold. Prevent your home from reaching temperatures lower than 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Direct warm air to all colder areas of your house. If your kitchen sink is located near an outside wall, make sure to keep the cabinet doors open to let warm air reach the pipes. Be sure to check the pipes in your basement.
- Heat tape can be used to warm pipes as needed.
- In an emergency or if it is dangerously cold outside, keep at least one faucet running slowly to allow warm water to move through the system at all times.
- Disconnect the hose from the outside faucet so that water is able to drain out of the hose bib instead of freezing inside.
Water damage and freezing make up nearly 22% of homeowners insurance claims. It is extremely important that you have your pipes regularly checked for cracks that could lead to devastating bursts when the ice melts. Even if your home is new, it may be connected to older pipes that weaken over time, and pipe replacement may be necessary.
Water pressure is the other common cause of pipe bursting. A plugged toilet or clogged water pump will cause the plumbing system to build up pressure. When the pressure is too much for the pipes to handle they will expand and burst.
Pipe and sewer inspection should be conducted by an experienced professional only. Only a professional will be able to see the subtlest warning signs of an imminent pipe burst.