What causes pipes to burst and why? There are a variety of reasons pipes can burst in a home. There are four primary causes of burst pipes.
- Frozen Pipes
- Moving Pipes
- Water pressure
Let’s look at some of the causes and then discuss the steps you should take if your pipe bursts.
Extremely Cold Temperatures
When cold weather affects your home’s water supply pipes, it can cause serious problems. While cold temperatures cause things to shrink, ice is more dense than water. When water freezes in a pipe, it expands, increasing pressure within the pipe. The pipe will literally burst if the building pressure is not released.
At times this happens at a weak pipe joint, but it can cause bursting of the pipe walls. To stop water pipes bursting in extreme cold, turn on your faucets and allow water to flow slowly but steadily. This will allow water to flow freely through the pipes, and prevent pressure buildup inside.
You can prevent freezing pipes by insulating exposed water supply pipes with foam pipe sleeves. Don’t let the temperature drop below 55 degrees Fahrenheit. To allow warm air to circulate around pipes, open cabinet doors beneath sinks
Water pipes that aren’t properly secured can move inside walls when water is turned on or off. Water hammer is a term for pipes clattering inside walls and floors. Pipes move around and eventually weaken the joints. Eventually, one can fail and pressurized water can escape from the pipe. This can cause severe and costly damage.
Water Pressure Issues
Normal water pressure is essential for water supply pipes to work properly. An increase in water pressure could cause a burst pipe, or even a failure of a plumbing fixture like a toilet or faucet. The pipes will not be able to hold the pressure and can burst, which can lead to a rupture.
Attach a pressure gauge to the sink spout, and turn on the faucet if you suspect that your water pressure may be too high. The gauge will adjust to the pressure and display the water pressure as psi (pounds/square inch).
Most homes have water pressures between 30-50 PSI and 60 PSI in order to prevent damage to pipes or plumbing fixtures. A plumber can adjust the water pressure in your home to lower it if it is too high.
Pipes are designed to last for a long time and most of them can provide decades of reliable service. Pipes won’t last forever, however. Pipes can fail after years of slow corrosion.
A pH imbalance in water can cause corrosion. This is a small problem at first, but over time it causes more damage to water pipes. If you have hard water, and your water supply pipes were made of galvanized steel, minerals in the water will slowly wear down the galvanized finish (which can lead to dangerous lead poisoning), and expose the iron pipe below.
Over time, iron will turn to rust (or iron oxide) and slowly narrow the pipe’s diameter so that water cannot get through it. The pipe could burst, or it might just shut off completely and stop water flow.