Water damage is one of the most common causes of insurance claims in the U.S. today. In colder areas like Minnesota, North and South Dakota, and Montana, this damage can be exacerbated by sudden freezes and thaws. While a lot of water damage in this area is caused by external flooding, foundation issues, groundwater flooding, and structural damage, plumbing failures are very often the source of the most destructive floods in any home. In fact, a plumbing flood can cause thousands of dollars of damage to a property in a short amount of time.
Signs of Plumbing Failure
Recognizing small leaks and failures in your plumbing system is not as easy as it sounds; most small leaks and issues go unnoticed for a long time before they are identified and dealt with. Learning to recognize the signs of plumbing failure in your home is one of the best things that you can do to protect your property.
Usually, these smaller failures escalate into a larger leak, a burst pipe, or another form of serious flood or failure. The most common signs of small leaks and problems in your plumbing system are:
- Reduced Water Pressure
If there is a sudden dip in your water pressure or you find that water is not coming out of certain faucets in intervals, it is likely that you have damage to your plumbing system. Reduced water pressure indicates leaks, whereas sudden stoppage of water could be indicative of air seeping into your pipes somehow.
- Dampness and Humidity
General dampness and humidity are, of course, the most important signs of damage and leaks in your plumbing system. If the walls of your basement are regularly wet, or you find pools of water on the floor, it is likely that a leak in your plumbing is the cause.
- Mold and Mildew
Just as dampness is a natural result of leaks in your plumbing, mold and mildew are sure to follow. If you notice mold and mildew spreading or focusing in certain areas or rooms, these are the first places you should look for a leak.
- Rattling or Banging Pipes
If your pipes jump, rattle, or bang when you turn your faucets on and off it is likely that the water pressure in your property is too high. This can cause leaks and problems in your plumbing system over time but can also be symptomatic of other existing problems.
If you see any of these signs, it is important that you call a professional.
The Most Common Causes of Plumbing Failures
Your plumbing system is a complex and delicate web of pipes that can be plagued by several issues and problems. The problem is that when your plumbing system has issues to work out, it quite literally spills out into the rest of your home. Something as fragile and complicated as your plumbing system can be damaged in hundreds of ways, but the most common causes of plumbing failures are:
If you have some pipes that connect to outdoor fittings, or pipes that pass through non-insulated spaces such as your basement or attic, freezing could be a real problem. When the water in a pipe freezes, it expands. This can cause the pipe to crack or burst. This causes no immediate problem, but when the pipe thaws, you will have a full-scale plumbing flood in your basement.
Old pips can begin to rust and corrode over time, especially if there is already a problem with dampness in a home. Corroding pipes can leak from multiple points before the pipes themselves crack or burst. This can lead to multiple points of saturation and standing water, making it hard to identify without professional help.
You have a better chance of catching the problem before it escalates. If you don’t, however, you will also have to deal with rotting floorboards, spreading mold, and many other issues associated with long-term leaks.
Water pressure is important to more than just your showering experience. While low water pressure has very few implications, excessively high-water pressure can cause a lot of problems. High water pressure can cause severe damage to your plumbing system and appliances very quickly.
In fact, high water pressure can cause your pipes to jump and rattle, loosening the fixtures that hold them in place. This puts extra strain on joints and fittings, which can then damage appliances. As such, high pressure can lead to burst pipes and serious leaks from both the broken pipes and the faucet.
Even if your water pressure is within acceptable levels, loose fittings and joints between pipes can lead to leaks and, eventually, a total failure in your plumbing system. Of course, these problems mostly cause small leaks before they lead to a plumbing flood, increasing the chances of preventing total failure but also causing damage over time.
Tree Root Invasion
Tree root invasion is a grave issue that can damage many parts of your home and plumbing system at the same time. The most common sign of tree root incursion is slowed water flow or drainage in key systems. This is, of course, only likely to affect pipes in the basement or crawl space.
Clogs and Sewage Backups
When a plumbing failure is not caused by damage to the pipes themselves, the most common cause of plumbing failures and floods is clogging or blockages. These most often occur inside sewage lines. When a serious blockage causes a plumbing failure in your sewage lines, you are most likely to see water backing up into your sinks and bathtubs or even out of your toilet.
Sump Pump Failure
If your basement sump pump loses power, fails to activate, or has blockages in the sump pit or discharge line, you will experience flooding.
While these are the most common causes of plumbing failure in residential properties, they are not the only potential causes. Therefore you should call in a professional if you see any signs of a plumbing failure or leak in your home; it is important to identify all contributing factors.
Protect Your Property from Plumbing Failures
Unfortunately, there is no fail-proof way to protect your property from the prospect of plumbing failures entirely. A property’s plumbing system is simply too complex and has too many connected appliances to prevent breakdowns altogether. However, there are some things that you can do to minimize plumbing failures and mitigate their consequences.
- Schedule Regular Maintenance
The most important thing you can do to protect your home and minimize the chances of your basement flooding because of plumbing failure is schedule maintenance. Maintenance of your pipes and any appliances attached to your plumbing system offers the best possible chance of catching small problems before they escalate. Maintenance will also prevent avoidable failures and breakdowns.
- Install Basement Drains
If you do not have basement waterproofing measures in place already, you should consider having them installed. Interior drainage and moisture management systems will help you to manage the consequences of a plumbing failure. After all, if you cannot guarantee you will never experience a failure, you can at least make sure a failure does not cause irreparable damage.
- Install a Sump Pump Alarm
A sump pump alarm system will help you mitigate a plumbing flood by reacting quickly. This will not prevent all damage, but it will minimize damage. Most high-quality modern sump pumps will have a built-in alarm system.
These simple preventive and damage-management measures will make it possible to minimize plumbing failures and their consequences. Of course, if you want to make sure small leaks don’t escalate, you need to learn to recognize the signs of plumbing damage.
- Insulate Your Pipes
Insulating pipes in exposed areas will go a long way toward preventing pipes from freezing, cracking, and bursting. This seriously reduces the likelihood of a large and serious plumbing flood.
If you take these simple steps, you will seriously limit the chances of suffering from an avoidable plumbing failure in your home. For those plumbing failures that are unavoidable, we at Innovative Basement Authority are always here to help.
A small leak in your property’s plumbing system may not seem like a big issue in the grand scheme of things, but even a small amount of water can do a huge amount of damage. In fact, low level leaks can often be more damaging than plumbing floods (though neither are positive).
Plumbing Leaks Increase Humidity
Small plumbing leaks can cause a serious amount of damage over time, but they tend to be less likely to cause widespread water damage to a property’s furnishings and structures. Instead, they are a little more insidious in nature. Low-level leaks (for example, leaks from the joining point between pipes and appliances) are notorious for causing indirect damage to a property by increasing relative humidity and causing localized dampness. What’s more, they generally have time to do damage because they go unnoticed for longer than plumbing floods.
The issues most associated with small leaks and the associated increases in humidity in a home are mold formation, wood rot, pest infestation, and cosmetic damage like staining or warping. These may seem like small issues, but things like mold and wood rot can have serious repercussions when they are allowed to grow unchecked. Mold, for example, can be very damaging to your health, while wood rot can lead to localized structural collapse.
Plumbing Floods Do Serious Damage
Plumbing floods, by contrast, are far more immediately destructive than small leaks and can cause immediate collapses in weakened structures, especially if the main line is ruptured. Even when the results are not this dramatic, however, they can still lead to serious issues like sagging flooring, rotting joists, and widespread damage to your furnishings and belongings.
One of the only positives to a full-scale plumbing flood is the fact that it is immediately noticeable and therefore rarely has a chance to affect a home over a prolonged period. This means that the damage is usually far more contained, and the repair process is generally more compact and cost-effective than the repairs that are needed following a prolonged, low-level leak.
Large plumbing floods are fairly uncommon, but most homes will experience one or two in their lifetime. When a plumbing flood strikes, managing and mitigating the damage is often one of the main priorities for homeowners – having an effective sump pump system in place can be of use during a plumbing flood, but it is not a silver bullet.
Location is Important
A sump pump system is one of the most important appliances in the average property because it acts as the first and last line of defense against flooding and dampness. However, plumbing floods are somewhat unique in that they can begin at the top of a property as well as the bottom. Because a sump pump system is commonly found at the lowest level of a home, it will only be of help if the water from the plumbing flood makes it down to the level of your sump pump.
Of course, if the plumbing flood is serious or prolonged, water will inevitably make its way down to the lowest levels of your home and will be removed by your sump pump. The beneficial nature of this will be impacted by how far the water must travel to reach your sump pump. For example, if the plumbing flood is in your basement (where a sump pump system is likely to be), your sump pump may prevent the water from affecting any other part of your home. If the flood originates in an upstairs bathroom, however, a certain amount of water damage will be inevitable.
Acting Quickly is Key
Even if a plumbing flood occurs in the immediate vicinity of your sump pump system, there is a limit to the amount of water that any sump pump can process. The longer a plumbing flood is allowed to continue, the higher the likelihood of your sump pump becoming overwhelmed is. When this happens, your home will start to experience localized flooding standing water, as well as all the damage this can cause.
As such, it is important that you act quickly to turn off the main water supply and have the issue repaired when there is a plumbing flood in your home. Having an active sump pump will help to minimize the damage in some cases, but it cannot control an active plumbing flood by itself. This is something that you must take additional steps towards.
Preventing plumbing floods is a tricky and complex undertaking that has no guarantees. Many professionals will tell you that it is almost inevitable that you will experience a plumbing flood at some point in your life and while this is not necessarily true, plumbing floods are quite common. Insulating your home is just one thing that you can do to prevent them.
Insulation Prevents Freezing
One of the most common causes of a large plumbing flood in North and South Dakota is a pipe which has frozen and ruptured because of the expansion of the water inside it. This is most common in pipes which connect directly to exterior taps or systems and pipes which are found in non-insulated crawl spaces or basements. Insulating (and waterproofing) your basement, crawl space, or exposed pipes is crucial to preventing this kind of damage.
The key to preventing your pipes from freezing and bursting is managing the temperature of your home and the water in the pipes. So, as you can imagine, insulation is a highly effective way to protect your home from this kind of damage. However, if you have an exterior tap or pipe which is connected to a hose or sprinkler system you should still disconnect these systems in winter to prevent the water inside them from freezing as this will impact connected pipes.
Corrosion and Pressure Can Also Cause Plumbing Floods
Insulation can protect your pipes from damage as a result of frozen water expanding but will not protect your pipes from other forms of damage. The only exception is that of water-based corrosion – certain kinds of pipe insulation can prevent corrosion by preventing condensation from forming on or around the pipes. Corrosion caused by a small leak or other issues within the metal of the pipes, however, will not be prevented by insulation.
Likewise, many plumbing floods are caused by excessively high-water pressure. This is something that insulation cannot mitigate or prevent – the best way to prevent plumbing floods as a result of high-water pressure is via regular maintenance and careful management of the water pressure in your home. The ideal pressure, for those not aware, is roughly between 40 and 60 PSI, any higher than 80, however, and a burst pipe will become increasingly more likely.
Let Innovative Basement Authority Protect Your Basement
Plumbing problems and failures can be hugely damaging to your property, as such it is important that you call a professional to maintain your plumbing system and appliances, but also to identify and resolve any issues you may have. For help keeping your basement safe and dry, contact Innovative Basement Authority for a free inspection and repair estimate today! Our team of experienced professionals will evaluate your basement and recommend the best solutions to protect your home. By the time we’re done, your basement will be ready to face anything that the weather, and your plumbing system, can throw at it.