One of the biggest dangers that extreme temperature swings pose for homeowners during the Winter months is burst pipes. Burst pipes occur when water caught in the pipe freezes during lower temperatures, expands and burst through. When the temp rises, the ice melts and water streams through the seam unchecked, flooding ceilings and basements and causing thousands of dollars in damages.
Oftentimes these disasters take place while the homeowners are unaware, asleep or away. But in the event that you've found yourself facing burst pipes in your home, here are the 3 immediate steps you should take.
An outdoor pipe with frozen water. (Credit: Flickr/DavidO)
Use as many buckets and receptacles as you can find to prevent the water from accumulating on the floor. If the burst pipe is in a ceiling and the water is causing a ceiling (or ceiling tile) to bulge, pierce the bulge with the end of a broom handle and have a bucket ready to collect the falling water.
In the end, you're trying to limit the amount of water that could potentially seep or leak into floorboards, soak up into drywall or come into contact with furniture or any other items that will become difficult to dry out and could potentially lead to mold growth.
There are three important shut offs: your central heating, the main water and the electrical. Turn off the central heating unit first.
Then turn off the main water valve and open up all the taps in the home to drain the water system.
If you are concerned that some wiring or switches were affected by the leak, shut the electrical off at the main circuit board.
Not sure where the shut offs are? Read this article to find out.
Call a Pro
If you don't feel comfortable replacing the burst pipe, get a plumber in to make the change for you. If you didn't get to the leak in time, you may have to call a professional to deal with water damage mitigation.
If you caught the leak before it spread too far, you may be able deal with the minimal water damage by allowing air to move through the space and bringing in fans to accelerate evaporation. Don't crank up the heat in the room, though. You'll only risk causing additional damage.
Additional Steps You Can Take
With the water shut off and the leaking stopped, now begins the task of clean up. It may seem daunting, but you won't want to delay a minute more.
Move items out of water-affected area. This means furniture, boxes, and anything lying around that has either been soaked by the leaking water or is going to hinder the drying-out process. If possible, move these things to a dry space like a garage or the outdoors where sunshine can help the evaporating process.
Pump out any standing water. Let's hope the leak wasn't this bad. But if it was, you'll want to remove all standing water from the area. This is where a pump comes in handy. If you don't own one, look into renting from a hardware or big box store. A wet-dry vac will also do the trick.
Get the air moving. We mentioned it before, but it bears mentioning again. Opening windows and doors and using fans to circulate air will help reduce some of the moisture. A dehumidifier is a helpful tool here, too.
Bring in the heat. But not too much heat. The goal is not to melt the room. Moving heated air will help dry out the floors and walls, however.
Know your insurance coverage. Before you go making costly repairs, you should find out what -- if any -- your insurance will cover.
With this plan in hand, you'll at least have some action steps to take. Because that water isn't going to disappear on its own. And nothing is worse than some head-scratching indecisiveness in the face of a flooded home.
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