Water Pipe Burst in the House: What to Do

Repair pipe burst in basement

Two phrases you never want to hear together— house flooded and burst pipe. Yet PVC pipes can suddenly burst or leak from improper installation, loose fittings, freezing temperatures, or becoming brittle and damaged. Whether it’s a pipe burst in the basement or under your kitchen sink, time is of the essence to prevent water damage to your home. Find out what you should do first, including easy fixes for temporary burst pipe repair and even how to thaw out frozen PVC pipes.

My water pipe bursts in the house, what do I do!?

When water is gushing out a burst pipe, it’s utter chaos. Here’s what you need to do when a pipe bursts in the basement or anywhere else in the house.

  • Locate the shut-off valve to your water main and close the valve by turning the handle clockwise. In basements, the shut-off valve is typically near the front foundation wall. In crawl spaces, it may be in the crawl space or where the water enters the basement. If you don’t have a basement or live in an apartment, the shut-off valve is probably near the water heater or under the kitchen sink.
  • If you suspect water is coming in contact with electrical outlets or other electrical components, shut off your electricity.
  • Check inside bathroom vanity cabinets, under kitchen cabinets, look for wet floors, carpet, or watermarks on the walls and ceiling to locate the burst pipe.
  • Once you find the burst pipe, place a bucket underneath to catch the leaking water.
  • Fix the broken pipe.

How To Fix a Broken PVC Water Pipe

Chances are, you’ll be able to fix a burst PVC pipe, at least temporarily, until you can get a professional plumber. Here are a few quick and easy solutions:

  • Fiberglass tape is ideal for temporary burst pipe repair because the tape is made with a water-activated resin that hardens and seals the leak. Clean the damaged area of the PVC pipe with a damp rag. While the pipe is still wet, wrap the damaged area of the pipe. The resin should harden in about 15 minutes. Keep a bucket handy and test for leaks.
  • Repair epoxy is available in putty or a thick liquid. Make sure the damaged area on the PVC pipes is clean and dry. Follow the directions for mixing the liquid or putty. Apply it to the pipe and let it cure for 10 minutes. Keep the bucket under the pipe and check for leaks.
  • Try rubber or silicone tape for minor leaks. These tapes use compression to adhere directly to themselves, so the process is a bit different from resin tape. Wrap the tape tightly around the leak, making sure to cover just beyond the sides of the leak. Place a bucket under the pipe and test for leaks.

Why do pipes burst in winter?

Pipes can burst any time of year, but when it happens in the winter, it’s probably due to temperatures dropping below freezing. When water freezes, it expands and puts immense pressure on metal or PVC pipes. All that pressure builds up and makes the pipe burst. Pipes in exterior walls, crawl spaces, basements, and even under cabinets can freeze when exposed to cold temperatures. If you turn on the faucet and only a few drops of water come out, it could be a frozen pipe. Here are some plumbing dos and don’ts for thawing out frozen pipes:

  • Do turn the faucet on and keep it open so as the water begins to melt, it will flow through the frozen areas of the pipes and help melt the ice in the pipe.
  • Do apply heat to the section of the pipe. A hairdryer or portable space heater should do the trick.
  • Don’t use a blowtorch, propane, or kerosene heater to thaw PVC pipes.
  • Do apply heat until full water pressure returns to the faucet.
  • Do check all the faucets in the home and thaw out frozen pipes using the steps above.
  • Don’t delay calling a professional plumber if you can’t locate the frozen pipe.
  • Do add insulation to the attic, crawl space, and other areas where pipes are exposed to freezing temperatures. Install pipe sleeves or heat tape on pipes that are vulnerable to colder temperatures.

What to Do After a Pipe Burst

If you’re lucky, you’ll be home when a water pipe burst in the house and know what to do. Still, cleaning up the mess from even one burst pipe is no easy task. Here are the steps to take to clean up and minimize water damage:

  • Remove water with a mop or wet vac.
  • Open the windows if possible or use fans to help dry the area.
  • Wash or use disinfecting wipes to clean up household items.
  • If you’ve been gone and return to a flooded basement, consider calling your insurance agent before beginning clean up.
  • Eliminate the stress and worry by hiring a professional restoration company to deal with the water damage. They have the expertise and special equipment to extract water, dry out furniture and personal belongings, and remove furniture and wet building materials. Your home can be fully restored from the inside out without lifting a finger.

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