Cleaning Up After a Burst Pipe: How to Clean Up Water Damage Caused By a Burst Pipe
Pipes are most likely to freeze and burst when temperatures are extremely low, often below 20° F / -7° C for several hours. Unfortunately, water will flow from a burst pipe until it is turned off at the main water supply shutoff valve. This can allow hundreds, if not thousands of gallons to pour into your home or business, causing extensive water damage to flooring, drywall, ceilings, and your possessions.
There are several signs that your pipes have frozen. The easiest to see is the flow of water from your faucets. If the pipes are frozen, the water will run slowly or not at all. If the water is running, it will be extremely cold and may have ice crystals suspended inside. As the water in the pipes freeze, it expands and creates pressure. If the pressure gets too high, it will actually cause your pipes to burst.
Signs That Your Pipes May Be Frozen
While pipes that are near external walls or in unheated spaces are most likely to freeze, any water pipe can freeze if the conditions are right. Learn the signs of a frozen pipe to prevent it from bursting.
- Temperatures are below 20° F / -7° C
- Water from faucets contains ice crystals, flows slowly, or does not flow at all
- Pipes are covered in frost or ice
Review our Preventing Frozen Pipes Guide to learn more about preventing and identifying frozen pipes.
Steps to Take When Thawing a Frozen Pipe
If you think you have a frozen pipe, it’s important to take action immediately. These steps will help you locate a frozen pipe quickly and prevent it from bursting.
- Open your faucets to reduce pressure and help promote water flow
- Locate the frozen section of pipe by following it back from the faucet to the water main
- Warm a frozen water pipe slowly to prevent the pipe from bursting
Read our Thawing Frozen Pipes Guide for more information about locating and thawing frozen water pipes.
Cleaning Up After a Burst Pipe
In the event that a water supply line bursts or another type of pipe ruptures because of the cold, you need to act quickly to limit the damage.
1. Turn Off the Your Water
If your pipes have burst, water will continue to flow until the water is shut off at the source. In most cases, the water shutoff is located in the lowest part of the property, such as a basement or crawl space. For properties without basements, look for the water shutoff valve in the utility room. Turning off the water supply will stop the flow of water and help limit additional water damage from a ruptured pipe.
2. Assess the Damage
After turning off the water shutoff valve, take a moment to quickly assess the situation. Whether you plan to clean up the damage on your own or hire a water damage restoration company, begin removing items from the area as soon as possible. Move furniture and personal items to a dry area and dispose of damaged items immediately to prohibit mold growth.
3. Extract Standing Water
Once you’ve accessed the situation and removed personal items, begin removing the standing water as quickly as possible to minimize the damage. Whenever possible, use a pump to evacuate standing water. You can rent a pump from most equipment rental companies. If you don’t have access to a pump, use a bucket to bail out the water. You can also use towels, sponges, or a mop to soak up water. Wring out the water out outside or in a closed drain to prevent it from returning to the damaged area.
4. Vacuum Up the Remaining Water
After removing the majority of the standing water, use a shop vac or a wet/dry vacuum to suck up the remaining water. Work in small sections, going over the same area repeated to extract as much water as possible. The goal of vacuuming up the excess water is to level the area just damp to the touch, with no visible water in the area. You will need to empty the vacuum canister several times throughout the process.
5. Dry Out the Area
Once the affected area is free of visible water, begin drying using fans and dehumidifiers. While consumer-grade equipment will eventually dry the area, it’s best to rent professional grade equipment from an equipment rental company. This will speed up the drying time and prevent mold growth and odors from developing. If the area is carpeted, it’s recommended that you lift the carpeting up to speed up drying times. It may also be necessary to dispose of the carpet padding, as it’s typically made of a fibrous material that can break down once wet.
6. Remove Damaged Materials
Once the area is completely dry, you may need to remove and dispose of certain materials. Water can take its toll on carpeting, laminate flooring, hardwoods, drywall, cabinets, and even ceilings. Identify which materials can be saved and which will need to be replaced. For items that will need to be replaced, carefully remove them to prevent damaging other materials. Depending on the extent of the damage, you may need to rent a dumpster.
7. Locate and Repair the Burst Pipe
Most burst pipes are located near exterior walls, where most properties are often the coldest. In most cases, the damage caused by the ruptured pipe will make it easy to locate the section that needs repairs. However, it can be difficult to access the ruptured pipe if it’s in a wall or ceiling. The section of pipe with the rupture will need to cut out and replaced. Make sure that the pipe is properly in place and not leaking before proceeding with your restoration efforts. While you can technically repair a burst pipe at any stage of the water restoration process, it’s easiest to do once you have cleaned up the majority of the damage.
8. Sanitize and Deodorize the Area
While the majority of burst pipes involve supply lines with clean water, it is still important to sanitize and deodorize the area. Use a chemical sanitizer to prevent odors and mold from developing over time. While you may be tempted to reach for bleach, it’s not effective at killing mold. A better option is a medical grade sanitizer, that will actually leave the area sanitized. In some cases, it may be necessary to use an ozone machine to remove severe odors. Use extreme caution when using an ozone machine. Always read and follow the operating instructions and vacate the area for at least 8 hours while using the machine.
9. Restore and Rebuild the Damaged Area
After deodorizing and sanitizing the area, you can finally begin reconstruction. Depending on the extent of the damage, this may include installing new flooring, drywall, or cabinets. You may also need to paint walls and ceilings. If the area is carpeted, we also recommend that you shampoo or steam clean the carpeting to remove debris.
Need Professional Cleanup After a Burst Water Pipe?
Cleaning up after a burst water pipe can be challenging. The longer the water sits, the more damage it will do. Mold can begin to grow in as little as 72 hours after a water supply line burst and sooner if the water is already contaminated. If you don’t have the necessary equipment or don’t want to spend the time, Restoration Local will help.
We’re the #1 network of restoration companies in the country. With most major franchises, including DKI Restoration, PuroClean, and ServiceMaster Restore, and independent restoration companies in our network, we make it easy to find a company to repair your water damage. Choose a water damage restoration company now.
For immediate service, call 1-888-443-3110 to speak with our on-call water damage restoration professional in your area. Our on-call restoration companies offer 24-hour emergency services, 30-minute response time, and a free estimate on water damage restoration services.