What to do when you find a burst pipe

Last updated: January 1

Learn how to look out for and prevent burst pipes and when your home insurance might help cover the damages.

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Warning signs of a frozen pipe in your home

Pipes are particularly susceptible to breaks during cold weather. It's important for homeowners to spot any signs of frozen pipes, so that they can take the necessary steps to prevent any possible issues like a burst pipe. According to the Family Handyman, here are a few signs that might indicate you have a frozen pipe in the home.

1. Low water pressure:

Very little or no water coming from your sinks, showers or faucets.

2. Frost build-up on pipes:

You can see layers of frost on any exposed pipes.

3. Damp sections of drywall, carpet or ceilings:

You find damp areas on your walls, floors or ceilings for no other explainable reason.

4. Strange smells coming from faucets or drains:

If a pipe is blocked, unpleasant odors might have no other place to escape but back up the drain.

I found a burst pipe. What can I do?

There are a few things you can do to slow the leak and mitigate damage when a pipe bursts. Here are few tips from Consumer Reports.

  • Shut off the water: Turn off the water main (or main water valve) to your home to minimize water damage.
  • Call a plumber: Before unplugging any appliances, call a plumber or water-removal professional who can help ensure that everything's done safely.
  • Start getting rid of the water: You can begin cleanup yourself, but to help mitigate damage to walls, floors and ceilings, Consumer Reports recommends contacting a water removal company that's certified by the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC).

How can I prevent burst pipes?

Freezing temperatures can be the most common culprit of burst pipes. When water freezes it expands, which can cause the pressure inside the pipe to increase until it bursts. The American Red Cross recommends taking the following preventive measures to avoid having cold weather overwhelm your plumbing system.

  • If you have a sprinkler system and/or swimming pool, drain it per the manufacturer's or installer's instructions.
  • Remove and store your garden hoses in the garage and turn off the water valves to outdoor faucets. Keep the outside valve open in order to let any remaining water escape. This also allows water sitting in the pipe to freeze and expand without busting it open.
  • Check for any exposed pipes in unheated areas of your house —like your basement, attic, garage, crawl space, and under bathroom and kitchen sinks. Insulate both hot and cold water pipes with pipe sleeves or heat tape, which is found at a hardware store.
  • Keep your garage door closed as much as possible if there are water supply lines in the garage.
  • If you go on vacation during the winter months leave your heater on and set at a minimum of 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

Does homeowner's insurance cover burst pipes?

Homeowners insurance may help cover the water damage to your home and personal property from burst pipes. Check your policy to see the list of coverage limits.