A burst water pipe is no laughing matter. Depending on the size of the damaged area, a large pipe can lose a gallon or more per second. Even smaller pipes can cause a significant amount of water loss, not only driving up the water bill but also potentially causing a lot of water damage. When you’re dealing with a burst pipe, it’s important to take action quickly to stop excessive water loss and get the pipe fixed as soon as possible.
Depending on the pipe that bursts, though, do you even know who to call? If a pipe is in your home then you obviously need to call a plumber, but do you know who’s responsible for maintenance if the rupture happens outside of your home? As it turns out, the responsible party depends on where the pipe is located.
Is a Pipe Really Broken?
Before you pick up the phone, make sure that you know that a burst pipe is the problem. If you’re simply experiencing a drop in water pressure, it’s possible that you don’t have a burst pipe at all. Look for some of the signs of burst pipes, including:
- Water spraying from the ground or visible section of pipe
- Puddles forming despite a lack of rain
- Odd colors or smells coming from tap water, or debris in the water
- Sounds of running water even when visible water isn’t present
- Significant increases in your water bill despite not using more water
If the pipe is located in your house, then you may also notice damp spots on the walls, blistering paint, an increase in mildew or even water stains appearing on your walls or ceiling.
Burst Water Mains
If a water main bursts, the responsibility for the pipe falls on the city or water district you get your water from. That means you need to contact them and let them know that there’s a damaged pipe near your home. Provide as much information as possible about the break, including the location and how much water seems to be coming from the pipe. If there were extenuating circumstances surrounding the break such as an accident or a worker driving a post down into the pipe, be sure to provide this information as well.
Pipes in Your Yard
In most cases, if the pipe that breaks is in your yard then it’s considered your responsibility. Even if it’s the pipe that connects your home to the water main, there will likely be very little that your water district will be able to do about it. This means that you’re going to need to call a plumber and let them know what’s going on. Provide as much detail about the problem as you can so they’ll have a better idea of what equipment is needed to fix the burst pipe.
If you have a broken pipe inside your home, then you’ll definitely need a plumber. Some household pipe problems are easy to spot, such as a pipe that’s spraying water in your basement. Others are hidden in walls or only have small cracks and may require some work to get to. As with pipes in your yard, provide the plumber with as much information as you can so they can take care of the problem quickly.
What to Do When a Pipe Breaks
In addition to calling the appropriate party to get the leak fixed, there are other things you should do when you discover a broken pipe. If the pipe is in your yard or home, locate the water shutoff valve in your yard (usually hidden under a black or metal cover) and turn it to shut off the water flow. Clear out any affected areas, removing or relocating items that could be damaged by the water and placing them in areas where they can dry. At your first convenience, head to the store and pick up a few gallons of bottled water to serve as drinking water until the problem is fixed. Make sure that you have enough to last a few days if you had a ruptured water main, as there will likely be a boil water order to follow.