Signs & Solutions Of A Broken Water Pipe

By |Published On: June 23rd, 2015|Categories: Plumbing Guides, Residential Plumbing|

If you want to learn how to find and fix a broken water pipe, you're in the right place! By the end of this article, you'll know the signs of a broken water pipe, what to do if they break, why they break, and how to fix them.

Signs Of A Broken Water Pipe

Below are the most common signs you may have a broken water pipe.

  • Mold/mildew on walls - Mold looks like a cluster of black or brown dots. Sometimes mold grows on the inside of your walls, hiding until it bleeds through. Combining water and wood creates the perfect condition for mold growth.
  • Sponginess - Touch your walls and feel if your drywall is soft or moldable. That can be a sign you have a broken water pipe.
  • Dripping sounds - Of course, if a pipe is leaking, you will be able to hear faint drops of water dripping inside your walls.
  • Discoloration - Look for areas in your home that look washed out or have a lighter color than usual.
  • Peeling paint or wallpaper - Check to see if your drywall is falling apart or soaked with water.
  • Wet areas or puddles - First, check if your dishwasher or washer machine is leaking. If those are fine, then you can start searching for the broken pipe.
  • Musty smells - Water leaking from a broken pipe may smell "earthy," like an old basement.
  • Low water pressure - If your shower and sinks aren't producing the same pressure as before, you could be looking at a broken water pipe.
  • Dirty water - Check to see if your water is brown, filled with sediment, or darker than usual.
  • Spike in your water bill - This is the most obvious sign you have a broken water pipe.
Eaking roof or pipe burst: woman calling insurance or plumber
Plumber making smelling bad gesture

If you notice a spike in your water bill but can't find any of the signs above, it may be a little more challenging to find the leak. Here are some better ways of finding the broken pipe.

  • Check your water meter - Your home has a water meter that tracks the flow rate (how many gallons per minute are flowing through the meter) and how many gallons your family uses. Record the numbers you see, waiting at least 3 hours without using any water. Compare the numbers at the end, and if it's changed, you have a broken water pipe.
water clock and copper pipes in a bathroom
  • Use a moisture meter - Plumbers usually carry one of these with them, but you can rent or buy one from a hardware store. Point the device at your walls until you find the spot that gives the highest reading. That's the point closest to the broken water pipe.
  • An infrared camera - An infrared camera cannot "see" moisture or water in your walls, but it detects coldness. When a water pipe is leaking, the camera will pick up the drop in temperature. When a hot water pipe is broken, the camera detects the increased heat.

Now that you know you have a broken water pipe, what should you do next?

What To Do If Your Water Pipe Breaks

A broken water pipe can lead to an abundance of issues. Here are some things you should do to prevent collateral damage.

  • Turn off your water - Do this first! Water won't stop leaking until you shut off your main water valve. If you live in a colder climate, your shutoff valve can be found inside, possibly in your basement. If you live in a warmer climate, your shutoff valve will probably be outside, attached to an exterior wall, or in an underground box with a removable lid.
  • Open a faucet - After you shut off your water, open a faucet to drain the rest of the remaining water.
  • Get rid of the water - If any water pooled up in your home, get out your mop, bucket, shop vacuum, and as many towels as you can spare.
  • Cut and remove mold - Once mold starts to grow, it spreads. If you don't feel comfortable cutting out moldy drywall or flooring yourself, call a professional.

Learn more about clearing a clogged drain. 

Why Do Water Pipes Break?

Now you're probably wondering why your water pipes broke. Below are some of the most common reasons why.

  • Freeze - When the temperature drops, the water flowing inside your pipes could freeze. Imagine if a block of ice clogged your water pipe. Water will keep pushing against the frozen section until the pipe bursts. You can prevent pipes from freezing by wrapping them in soft foam sleeves or fiberglass insulation.
  • Tree roots - Tree roots can grow twice as wide as a tree's canopy. The roots can infiltrate your pipes using joints or cracks in water and sewer pipes. Contractors recommend removing trees that are growing too close to your home.
  • Corrosion - Pipes are not invincible. After years of use, steel pipes will break down, corrode, narrow, and slowly burst open. The best way to handle this problem is by replacing your water pipes with copper or PVC.
bursted frozen copper pipe with water leaking out, 3d illustration
Burst copper water pipe due to frost
  • Soil shifting - Soil can shift due to rain, flooding, drought, freezing temperatures, and more. If your soil shifts, it can induce pressure on your water pipes, causing them to crack, leak, and collapse.
  • High water pressure - Your home's water pipes should never exceed 60 PSI (pounds per square inch). If your water pressure reaches 80 PSI, your pipes become vulnerable to bursting.
  • Clogs - The most common reason water pipes clog is due to build-up from minerals and sediment from the municipal water supply.

Learn more about how sewer lines clog. 

How To Quickly Fix A Broken Water Pipe

We recommended calling a plumber to fix a broken water pipe, but if it's urgent, here's how you can quickly fix a leak yourself.

  • Locate the leak - Using the methods at the beginning of this article, find the leak and clean up puddles before starting your repairs.
  • Shut off the water - Working on a pipe while it's still leaking will only create a bigger mess.
DIY emergency pipe repair clamp leak fix sealer for copper and iron or plastic pipes
  • Apply a pipe repair clamp - You can purchase a pipe repair clamp at your local utility store or online. The process involves simply sliding a rubber sleeve over the leak and then bolting the two-part clamp in place over the sleeve.
  • Apply an adjustable hose clamp - If you don't have a pipe repair clamp, you can make your own using a strip of rubber and an adjustable hose clamp.
  • Apply epoxy putty - If your pipe is broken near a joint, it can be difficult to slide a repair clamp over the leak. Instead, apply an epoxy putty over the leak and wait for it to dry.

All of these solutions are meant to be fast, not permanent.

How To Fix A Copper Or Galvanized Water Pipe

Unless you know how to solder pipes together, cut, and replace drywall or flooring, we recommend calling in a professional. It's time New Flow Plumbing comes in to save the day. First, we schedule a CCTV sewer camera inspection to determine where your problems come from. Then, we give you a free repair estimate, followed by available repair options. Whatever the issue, New Flow Plumbing will have your water pipes working again!

About the Author: Arman

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