Water Main Break: What to do After a Water Main Break
Unfortunately, water main breaks can happen at any time. While they often damage roads and other city property, a water main failure can cause significant water damage to your home or business as well. Our water main break guide will learn what to do after a water main break and how long to run water after a water main break. We also explain what a water main is and the common signs of a water main break.
4 Steps to Take After A Water Main Break
- Call the Water Department – At the first sign of a water main break, contact your local water department to report the issue. The sooner you report the problem, the sooner your water service will return to normal.
- Limit Water Use – Try to limit water use during a water main break. Avoid drinking tap water, taking a shower or bath, doing laundry, or running the dishwasher. In some cases, local authorities may issue a boil warning. If so, boil water for at least 5 minutes.
- Inspect Your Property for Damage – Walk through your home and look for water damage. Start in the basement or crawlspace and walk the perimeter of your property. Make repairs as necessary.
- Flush Your Pipes – After the water main is repaired, open all fixtures and allow water to run until clear. Consider running the washing machine and dishwasher several times as well.
How Long to Run Water After a Water Main Break
Once local authorities indicate its okay to use water again, you will need to flush your pipes to remove dirt and other impurities. Start by opening cold water faucets and allow them to run for at least two minutes after the water runs clear. Do this for every cold water faucet in your home.
Next, flush your hot water tank. The easiest way to do this is to open your hot water faucets and allow them to run until the water turns cold. Wait an hour, then repeat the process a second time. This will help clear sediment from inside your hot water tank.
Once you’ve cleared your water lines, check the aerator on your faucets for debris. Clean or replace aerator screens as necessary. If you have an under sink or whole house water filtration system, you should also change the filter at this time.
For in-door refrigerator water dispensing systems, run water for several minutes and then replace the water filter. If you have an ice maker, all the system to continue to produce ice as normal. However, dispose of all ice for the next several days.
To clean the water lines to your dishwasher and washing machine, run them through at least two cycles completely empty. Then run a third cycle with detergent to wash the inside of the unit. If your dishwasher has an in-unit filter, replace it after you complete the cleaning cycle.
What is a Water Main
A water main is the main water pipes that supply water throughout your city. Most water mains and pipes run underground, often under roads. While extremely old pipes were usually galvanized steel, most water mains installed between the 1930s and 1980 were made of cast iron. Today, most water mains are made of concrete cement. They are extremely strong once installed, but they are expensive and bulky to transport install.
Signs of a Water Main Break
The common assumption is that a water main break will result in a complete loss of water, but water will typically continue to flow in most instances. Instead, of a complete loss of water, most water main breaks result in low pressure. If you turn on a single fixture, you might not notice a problem. Turn on several, however, and you may notice low pressure or even extremely slow water flow.
In addition to signs inside your home, a water main break may show signs outside your home as well. While water gushing up out of the ground is certainly the most visually spectacular, it doesn’t always happen. More commonly, you should expect to see water flowing across roads, sidewalks, or grassy areas. Check with your neighbors to see if they are having water issues as well, as a water main break will likely affect an entire street or even neighborhood.
Signs of a Water Main Break Inside Your Home
- Low water pressure that causes fixtures to hiss or pop
- Slowly flowing water
- Dirty water or a rusty discoloration
- Pipes or plumbing fixtures make unusual noises
- Water seeping or pooling inside your home, especially in the basement or crawlspace
Signs of a Water Main Break Outside Your Home
- Water gushing or flowing from the ground
- Sinking roads, sidewalks, or ground
- Water seeping or pooling out of the ground
- Unusually wet or soggy ground
What Causes A Water Main Break
Water main breaks occur for a number of reasons, but the most common reasons are age and temperature. All materials wear out over time, which can eventually result in a water main failure. Temperature is also a big factor. As the ground freezes, it contracts and puts pressure on the water mains. While unlikely, the water inside the pipe can also freeze resulting in outward pressure on the water main. Hot temperatures and dry air can cause the ground to shift and settle, creating a sheering effect. Other factors that cause a water main break include:
- Material – All materials wear out over time. Cast iron can become very brittle over time, increasing the likelihood it will crack as it expands and contracts with changing temperatures.
- Erosion – If the soil around a water main erodes due to a previous water issue, nearby construction, or other issues, the area around the main can become unstable.
- Corrosion – Steel and cast iron pipes are not treated for corrosion, so they can wear through over time.
- Age – Age alone is not an issue, as some pipes installed in the 1900s are still working perfectly. However, the likelihood of a water main break increases in pipes older than 60 years.
- Accidents – Unfortunately, there are many human factors that can cause a water main break too. The most common is construction and accidents often result in a water main break.
What Happens When a Water Main Breaks
A water main break occurs when the pipe breaks in some way. The water flowing through the pipe then pours out of that crack or break. Although water typically continues to flow through the water main, it usually has less pressure. Depending on the cause of the water main break, the material of the pipe, and other factors, the water coming out of the pipe can cause additional damage.
The water can erode soil and roads, leading to sinkholes and creating traffic problems. Water may pour or even gush or spray out of the ground, causing flooding. If a water main break occurs near your property, the water could even cause damage inside.
How Long Does it Take to Fix a Water Main Break
Unfortunately, every water main break is different. While a temporary fix may take as little as a few hours, completely repairing the water main after a break may take days or even weeks. It may require the repaving of roads or the addition of soil to stabilize the area. In addition the damage to municipal property, a water main break can cause damage to your property. Water damage restoration time will vary depending on the type and extent of the damage.
What To Do After A Water Main Break
1. Call the Water Department
You should report any sign of a water main break. Water authorities will inspect the damage and determine the proper repair procedure. Repair crews may need to turn off the water or interrupt other utilities. In most cases, they will close off the area so they can excavate and make repairs. Depending on the extent of the damage, repairs can take between a few hours and several weeks. Contact your water department for the last updates.
2. Limit Water Use
Try to limit your water use after a water main break. Dirt, debris, and bacteria can contaminate water after a water main break. Local authorities will advise you if the water is safe to use. In some instances, they may impose a boil warning or a boil alert. If a boil warning is issued, you should boil water for at least 5 minutes to kill bacteria and parasites and boil off impurities.
3. Inspect Your Property for Damage
Water can cause significant damage to your property, so inspect your home for water. Start in the basement or crawlspace and walk the perimeter of your property. Look for wet carpet, drywall, and cabinets. Continue to check your home for water over the next several days, as the water may not enter your home immediately. If you have water damage, dry our water immediately to limit damage and prevent mold.
4. Flush Your Pipes
After the water main is repaired, flush your pipes to remove dirt and sediment. Start by opening the cold water faucets and allow them to run for at least 2 minutes after they run clear. Then run the hot water until it’s cold. Wait an hour or two and then run the hot water again. This ensures that your hot water tank is flushed. You should also run the washing machine and dishwasher several times as well. Ideally, run two cycles completely empty to clear the water lines, then a third time with just detergent to clean the units themselves.
Water Damage from a Water Main Break? Call For Water Damage Restoration Services
Restoration Local is the #1 network of water damage restoration companies. From 911 Restoration to Paul Davis Restoration, we have most major franchises and independent companies in our directory. If you have water damage after a water main break or another water issue, find a local water damage repair company near you now. For emergencies, call 1-888-443-3110 to be connected with our on-call water damage contractor in your neighborhood. Our on-call restoration contractors offer 24-hour emergency service, 30-minute response time, and a free estimate on water damage restoration services.