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When Pipes Burst

Posted by Woodrow Aames ~ December 14, 2009

Time to be honest. You never read our post on preventative plumbing tips to avoid trouble this winter, did you? Now you have a frozen or burst pipe. It's nasty, too! You know you have a frozen pipe because you turned on the tap during freezing conditions and all you got was a sudden splat, followed by nothing!

Your first job is finding the frozen section of pipe. Close the main water valve that supplies the house and open your taps so the built-up pressure can bleed out. If there's no water coming in at all, it may be the main section of pipe located near the main supply by the water meter. When the water supply works only in one side of your home, the pipe may be either exposed outdoors or in a crawl space (if you're really unlucky). If you have already located the demon pipe, now it's time to break out the repair tools and get things back to snuff before more damage comes your way.

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Repairing a Burst Pipe

Before a pipe can really be fixed, you need to thaw it out. Many homeowners use hair dryers or portable heaters aimed at the section of pipe. Whatever yo do, don't boil up a kettle of water and dump it over the pipe. That's likely to cause a new burst in the section. Now you've doubled your troubles.

An emergency repair depends on the material used in the plumbing in the first place. Hopefully you've chosen copper over plastic. Copper can be fixed by cutting the burst section off, measuring out a new length of pipe, prepping the old surfaces with a scouring pad, and soldering the new section and connectors. If you have burst lead pipes, it's high time to call in a plumber and get them replaced.

You can also do a temporary fix by attaching pipe repair clamps and a sleeve over the leak. While that fix is handling the problem, head out to the hardware store and round up a replacement section of pipe and fit it on the slip end and coupling ends of the original pipe, restoring the olives and nuts with a spanner.

Now's a great time to look over our tips for winterizing and double-check each one to ensure that you have a warm and safe winter. If you haven't installed sleeves or heating tape, you might have time to get it all done before we slip into the coldest part of winter.

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