Does the thought of a burst pipe have you cowering in fear and thinking you'll turn into Curly from The Three Stooges? It shouldn't. Yes, a broken pipe is going to cause a bit of a mess. In fact, a huge mess, but that doesn't mean you can’t put on your handyman hat and take care of the situation.
First step: Don't panic.
Second step: Turn off the main water to stop the flow. (It helps to know where the main water line is for your house!)
Once the water has stopped and you've cleaned up whatever flood surrounds the broken pipe, you're ready to get to work. How you'll repair the pipe depends on the nature, size, and location of the fracture.
Here are some examples of how to repair a burst pipe:
A Split-Pipe Fix
A split-pipe is just that — a split-pipe. Think of a peapod breaking open. The perfect way to replace a split-pipe is to use a cut-and-paste coupling. By using pieces of pipe that have already been cut and fitted with a coupling at either end, a coupling allows you to mend the break.
You have to find the right size pipe for your repair. You'll want to leave an inch on either side of the split in order to fit your new pipe piece into the slot — that is the size of the actual pipe replacement you'll need.
Use a hacksaw or tubing cutter to cut out the damaged piece of pipe. Once removed, sand the pipe ends to remove rough edges. Then place the ferrule (or ring) and nut from each end of the replacement coupling onto the ends of the cut pipe.
Slip your pipe piece in between the ends and tighten with a wrench. Turn the water back on and check for leaks. The best thing about this type of replacement is that is can be done without soldering.
A Pinhole Fix
Before the big switch to copper plumbing, galvanized steel pipes were placed in homes. You might be living in one of those galvanized domiciles, which could mean the chances of springing a leak from corrosion increase. Again, there’s an easy fix which starts with shutting off the water, assessing the damage, and heading off to your nearest hardware store.
In the plumbing section of the hardware store, purchase a stainless-steel pipe repair clamp. At home, clear away the rust and accumulated gunk from the pinhole leak. Then open the clamp and slip it onto the pipe. Maneuver the rubber seal around the leak. Pinch the clamp closed, and tighten the bolt that is located between the prongs of the iron lug. Turn on the water and check for leaks.
Stop a Burst Pipe Before It Bursts
A little preventive maintenance will go a long way toward keeping your pipes from bursting. This is especially true if you live in an area that is prone to freezing temperatures. Make sure your home is shielded from outdoor elements. Properly weather strip your windows and doors, as well as the entry points for your pipes. There shouldn't be any gaps that let in cold air.
If your exposed pipes in your basement lead to the rest of the house, you might consider insulating them for added protection. There are many protective materials available for this purpose. As long as you're insulating, you should consider adding a layer of protection to your water heater. Insulating "blankets" specifically designed for this task are easy to wrap around your tank.
Imagine leaving for a winter vacation, only to return to a flooded home. Avoid this scenario! Before taking your trip, set the thermostat to make sure the house won't dip below 60 degrees, and consider shutting off the main valve. Finally, ask a neighbor or friend to check on your house during your trip.
When to Call the Plumber
Proactive steps can go a long way toward keeping your water flowing, but there could come a time when a call to a professional plumber is required. You might have to call a plumber after you attempt a fix, but there’s nothing to be embarrassed about if the leak persists. Have it handled professionally ASAP, and all will be well.