A burst water pipe can allow hundreds, if not thousands of gallons to pour into your home or business. Depending on the location of the water pipe burst, it could easily flood your basement, bathroom, or kitchen as well as cause extensive water damage to your possessions. From how to clean up a burst water pipe to whether a burst pipe is covered by insurance, here are the most important details about pipe bursts.
How to Clean Up a Burst Water Pipe
Most pipes burst in the basement or near exterior walls, where most properties are the coldest. A water pipe burst is more common at night when temperatures are at their lowest, but that can happen any time the water falls below freezing. In the event that a burst water pipe, take action quickly to limit the damage.
1. Turn Off the Water
After a water pipe bursts, water will flow until you turn off the main shutoff valve. Turning off the water supply will limit additional water damage from a burst pipe. In most cases, your main water shutoff valve is located in the lowest part of your home. If you don’t have a basement or crawl space, look for the shutoff valve in the utility room.
2. Remove Wet Furniture and Personal Items
After turning off the water, remove wet items from the area. Move furniture and personal items to a dry area. Dispose of damaged items immediately to prevent mold.
3. Extract Standing Water
Start cleaning up a burst water pipe by extracting the standing water as quickly as possible. The most effective way to remove water from a burst pipe is with a submersible pump. If you don’t have one, you can rent a pump from most equipment rental companies.
Alternatively, use a wet-dry shop-style vacuum to remove water. Empty the storage tank regularly to prevent it from overflowing. Another option is to bail out the water with a bucket. 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 to suck up the remaining water. Work in small sections, going over the same area repeatedly to remove as much water as possible.
For the best results, start at the top and move across, then down. The goal is to leave the area just damp, with no visible water. You will need to empty the storage tank several times throughout the process.
5. Dry Out the Area
After removing as much water as possible, begin drying using fans and dehumidifiers. While consumer-grade equipment will eventually dry the area, it’s best to rent commercial-grade equipment from an equipment rental company.
Consumer fans don’t have the air moving power to dry the structure of your home after a burst water pipe. The same goes for consumer dehumidifiers, which can remove moisture from the air, but not from walls and flooring.
If the water pipe burst affected a carpeted area, you should lift the carpeting up from the subflooring to decrease drying times. Unfortunately, carpet padding is hard to dry. Even if you dry it, padding often crumbles when you walk on it. Thankfully, carpet padding is inexpensive and easy to replace.
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 materials that will require replacement and carefully remove them to prevent damaging other items. Depending on the extent of the damage, you may need to rent a dumpster.
7. Locate and Repair the Burst Pipe
In most cases, the damage caused by a water pipe burst will make it easy to locate the section that needs repairs. However, it can be difficult to access the burst pipe if it’s in a wall or ceiling.
The section of the water pipe that burst will need to cut out and replaced. Make sure that the new water pipe is properly in place and not leaking before proceeding with your restoration efforts.
While you can technically repair a burst water 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. Disinfect and Deodorize the Area
While the majority of water pipe bursts involve supply lines with clean water, it is still important to disinfect and deodorize the area. First, clean any item or surface that came in contact with water using a mild detergent and allow to air dry.
Then mix 1 and ¼ cups of bleach with a gallon of water. Use a rag to wipe down items. For larger items and surfaces, apply with a spray bottle for the best coverage. Allow to air dry and then repeat the process to ensure all surfaces are properly disinfected.
For odors, the best thing is to open windows and circulate fresh air. You can also use baking soda to remove odors from fabric, upholstered furniture, and carpeting. Sprinkle it on and then gently rub it in, then vacuum up after an hour.
In rare cases, you may need 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 disinfecting 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.
What Causes a Water Pipe to Burst?
A water pipe burst is most likely when temperatures are extremely low, often below 20° F / -7° C for several hours. Water pipes in exterior walls are most likely to freeze. Although this may seem surprising, water pipes will also freeze and burst in traditionally warm-weather climates because homes typically have less insulation.
Prevent frozen water pipes by keeping your thermostat set at or above 55° F / 13° C. If your pipes are frozen but have not burst yet, thaw water pipes gradually to prevent thermal shock. Heating them too quickly or using an open flame will actually cause water pipes to burst.
Is a Burst Water Pipe Covered By Insurance?
A water pipe burst is usually considered sudden and accidental, which most insurance companies use to determine whether the damage is covered. If you have a burst water pipe, shut off the water immediately. Then take photos or videos to document the damage.
You can call your agent or claims department right away. However, consider calling a restoration company first if you either can’t shut off the water or you are concerned about your cover. Your water damage technician can call your agent with you to ensure you don’t say something to could result in your claim being denied.
Call 1-888-443-3110 for Water Extraction and Dry Out After a Burst Water Pipe
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