Bursting of water pipes is one of the common plumbing issues that homeowners have to contend with. Whether in the house’s plumbing network or the supply pipes, water pipes can burst without warning, leading to a major repair that requires the attention of a qualified plumber. Water supply pipes are, however, designed to withstand a considerable amount of force, thereby resisting such bursting at all costs. Burst pipes are often the result of a significant level of structural damage. Here are key common causes of burst water pipes.
Freezing temperatures, especially in winter, can sometimes subject water to below -4 degrees Celsius. At such low temperatures, water normally turns into a solid, thereby blocking water flow. The considerable amount of pressure that accumulates at the point of blockage due to the expanded mass of ice subjects the pipes to tensional forces that rip the pipe apart. The water accumulated upstream from the blocked area in the pipe, therefore, leaks until appropriate repairs are done.
Pipes, whether metallic or plastic, are designed to last for a limited period of time depending on their exposure to weather elements and whether they are regularly serviced. Engineers have determined that pipes can last up to 20 years beyond which they get structurally degraded such that they cannot withstand considerable water pressure. Metallic pipes, in particular, can be subjected to corrosion with time while plastic pipes often get brittle, thus making them break at the slightest pressure. Pipe corrosion is common in copper-based water supply pipes.
Water pipes can sometimes be subjected to external pressure. In most cases, pipes laid on the ground can be subjected to pressure from tree roots, passing cars, or even construction equipment excavating the ground. Such pressure normally tends to squeeze the pipes beyond their structural limits. The pressure makes pipes either crack or burst, thereby leading to leakages. Sometimes, detecting such underground leakages can be a daunting task that is only possible with a professional plumber who can repair burst copper pipe with ease.
Clogging is a major cause of pipe blockage and consequent bursting. Clogs on water pipes can be the result of the accumulation of minerals which coagulate on the pipes’ inner surfaces with time. Some clogs can also occur in situations where the water carries solid material such as chaff. Massive clogs hinder the flow of water downstream leading to the accumulation of incredible pressure upstream. Such a clogged pipe can easily give up by cracking or bursting open, leading to leakages.
Water pipes are designed to withstand a certain level of water pressure. The precise level of such pressure is normally a technical specification and is usually labeled on each pipe. Sometimes, the water pressure limits can be exceeded, especially in cases where more water volume is pumped through a pipe. This often occurs in situations where a narrow pipe is used to supply more water, thereby prompting the need for application of more pressure on the water pump. Such excessive water pressure can exceed the pipe’s structural ability to withstand force thereby leading to an abrupt burst.
Although uncommon, ground movements can subject pipes to extreme forces leading to bursting. Such forces are particularly common in cases such as earth tremors and earthquakes. They also occur in situations where the ground slightly moves either up, down, or laterally such as after heavy rains. Such ground movements expose ground pipework to extreme forces beyond their limits, therefore making them burst without notice.
Pipework and pipe connections should be done by a qualified plumber who is licensed, professional, and well-versed in plumbing. In cases where such pipe layering process is done by persons who lack the technical knowledge, mistakes do occur, especially leading to incorrect subjection of water pressure on the pipes. In situations where a larger pipe, for example, is joined to a smaller pipe of lesser thickness, excessive pressure can render the pipe structurally weak, leading to bursting.
Pipe connections are perhaps the most vulnerable points of the entire pipework. Weak and improper pipe connectivity can expose water pipes to extreme pressure, therefore acting as the immediate point of bursting in case of a slight pressure buildup. It is important that these connections are appropriately reinforced to prevent issues.
In conclusion, the bursting of water pipes is a common occurrence that is attributable to instances of improper pipework or an unequal subjection of water pressure. Whenever they occur, repairs should be done with immediacy to avoid the subsequent leakages that may cut off water supply and lead to massive losses.