What Causes Pipes to Burst?
It’s just about the least desirable outcome in any waterworks system, residential or otherwise. But what are some of the main causes for burst pipes? By knowing some of the main causes, you can be prepared to look out for the warning signs and know when your pipes might need some extra attention.
Cold weather. Winter means that your pipes receive colder water, making them contract. If there are any weaknesses in the structure of the pipe, this could mean that they burst. When the weather hits around 20 degrees Fahrenheit or below, you should be aware that your pipes are at risk of freezing. If you notice a lack of water flow, consider thawing your pipes out.
Freezing weather is one of the primary causes of burst pipes, so make sure you regularly run your faucets to keep water flowing around your pipes in cold weather. If you leave it too long, the stationary water might start to freeze and expand, putting pressure on your pipes.
Movement and water hammer. In poorly designed pipe systems, you might hear your pipes moving when you turn the water on or off. This means that they aren’t properly secured, and are liable to banging against their surroundings (also known as ‘water hammer). Over time, this can cause weaknesses in the pipe’s joints until they break and burst.
Increased water pressure. Naturally, if the water pressure inside pipes is too high then they can be at risk of bursting. To check that your home’s water pressure is in the recommended range of 30-50 psi, attach a pressure gauge to a sink spout and take a reading when the faucet is on. If your water pressure is above 60 psi, you should consider calling a plumber to reduce your water pressure to a safer level.
Corrosion. Over many years, water with a pH imbalance (hard water) can wear down a pipe’s material. Galvanized iron pipes are at particular risk of corrosion because the coating can be worn down to reveal the iron which would eventually rust. This buildup of rust can lead to a burst pipe because the water would have less space to travel inside the pipe.
Interference from tree roots. This one might be surprising, but the roots of a tree or shrub can extend towards a water or sewage pipe underground over time. These invasive roots often make their way inside a pipe, applying pressure until the pipe bursts open. To avoid this, try to plant any trees or shrubs far away from your pipes!–
Written by: Jack Vale is a writer in partnership with steel piping distributors Fed Steel.