The plumbing of a property acts rather like the arterial system of the body, removing waste and bringing in clean water to keep you healthy and hygienic. This is just one of the reasons a plumbing flood can be disastrous for you and your home. Yet floods caused by damaged plumbing systems are one of the most common causes of major home insurance claims in Missouri. The cost of repairing the fallout of a major plumbing flood can run into the thousands, if not tens of thousands, of dollars. This is why it pays to know how you can avoid dealing with one in the future.
What Damage Can Plumbing Floods Do?
A serious plumbing issue like a burst pipe, a leaking water heater, or a broken sump pump can cause your home to flood quite dramatically. In cases like these, you could be facing extensive damage to both your home and your personal property. These are the most likely results of a severe plumbing flood in your home.
Wet carpets may seem to be a small issue in the grand scheme of things, but they can be incredibly damaging in many ways. First and foremost, if you do not dry them out thoroughly or quickly enough, they can begin to rot. Carpets made of pure organic material such as wool are at the biggest risk of this. They can also attract pests, harbor mold, and trap foul odors, making your home environment entirely untenable.
If you experience a plumbing flood in areas of your house with wooden floorboards, it is very likely they will sustain some damage. If you can deal with the water source and dry your home out quickly, you may avoid serious damage. If the water is stagnant for some time, however, your floorboards can warp or even rot. If this happens, you will face huge repair bills.
Mold, Mildew, and Pests
All this wet organic material will act as a beacon to mold and mildew. Certain species of mold will simply make your home smell bad, but others could attract pests such as cockroaches, mold mites, and termites.
Worse still, some types of mold, such as black mold, are detrimental to your health and can damage your respiratory system.
Severe flooding will damage any personal property and furnishings that are affected by a plumbing failure. The cost of repairing and replacing soft furnishings and electronics can be huge, but the real danger is that you could lose sentimental or irreplaceable items like photographs and legal documents.
If you have drywall inside your home, a plumbing flood could ruin the panels entirely. Once drywall becomes sufficiently saturated, its structural integrity is severely weakened. Sometimes it can be dried out and saved, but if it is left wet for a significant amount of time, it can warp, sag, or crumble and will most likely harbor mold.
What Causes Plumbing Floods?
The plumbing system is one of the largest interconnected systems in any building, and as such, there are countless ways in which it could become compromised. Leaking joints, burst pipes, and damaged appliances can all allow water to escape into your home. However, the potential causes of serious plumbing floods are a little more limited. The most common causes of a severe plumbing flood are as follows.
Some pipes are bigger than others, but a burst pipe of any size can pump huge amounts of water into your home in a frighteningly short amount of time. If one of the large pipes that connect your house to the water mainline bursts, you can expect standing water to spread throughout your house quickly.
A Blocked or Broken Sump Pump
Your home’s sump pump is designed to prevent water from gathering in your basement. During heavy rainfall or extreme weather, a good sump pump can be the difference between a relatively dry home and six feet of water in your basement.
Leaking Water Heater Units
Water heaters are both incredibly important and incredibly dangerous. When one springs a leak or fails, it can flood your home, but it can also cause burns and scalds to anyone standing near it when the pipes burst.
One of the nastiest causes of a residential plumbing flood is a clog or blockage that causes a sewage backup. If your sewage line is obstructed by tree roots or debris, it can quickly result in sewage water pushing its way back up and out of your drains and even your toilet. Thankfully, this is relatively easy to spot before it gets to this stage, but even a small flood from a sewage backup will completely ruin the furnishings and carpets it comes into contact with.
Helpful Plumbing Flood
There are many reasons your home could be flooding. These are the most common:
- Drainage Problems
If water is backing up in your basement, it could be that the drainage systems protecting your basement and property’s foundation are damaged, blocked, or simply inadequate. If you notice that your basement floods when there is very heavy rain, for example, it may be that your sump pump is not functioning as well as it should be.
Alternatively, you could have poor drainage around the exterior of your property, thereby allowing hydrostatic pressure to build up and cause damage to your walls and foundation. In this case, the dampness in your home will be far less dramatic, but consistent and significantly more damaging in many ways. Persistent dampness, for example, can cause mold to form.
- Burst Pipes
The most dramatic and common cause of serious plumbing floods is damaged or burst pipes in a home. Thankfully, these are also the easiest to identify, given the copious amounts of water that they push into a property. Plumbing pipes can burst as a result of corrosion or sudden temperature changes and can be very destructive.
Burst or damaged sewage pipes, however, are far worse (and a damaged or blocked main sewage line is the worst by far). These instances are far more severe because of obvious hygiene concerns; sewage in your home could make you very sick and will cause irreparable damage to your belongings. Thankfully, it is far less common for sewage lines to burst.
- Broken Appliances
Another common cause of flooding in a home is the breakdown of appliances like water heaters, washing machines, and dishwashers. A modern property relies on many appliances to function, and when these appliances fail, they can cause serious floods, as well as inconvenience and frustration.
Anyone who has experienced a serious washing machine malfunction, for example, will understand just how much water these appliances can let loose when something goes wrong. The scale of flooding from an appliance breakdown can vary from slow, steady dripping to a violent expulsion of gallons of water at once.
There is not much that you can do to ensure that your plumbing system never fails. Nonetheless, there are some things you can do to keep it in good health. The most obvious are:
- Keep up with Maintenance
This is gospel; if you want to avoid sudden and unexpected plumbing floods, either from your pipes or from appliances, it is important to stick to a maintenance schedule. Ensure that your pipes and all appliances receive yearly maintenance and inspections from professionals who know how to identify and repair problems.
Repair and maintenance schedules can be fairly inexpensive if you set up a plan with the right company, and the benefits far outweigh the costs. As well as making sure that day to day use doesn’t cause your appliances to degrade too quickly, maintenance can highlight warning signs before they snowball into real problems with serious consequences.
- Treat Your Plumbing Systems Well
Practicing basic plumbing care can go a long way when it comes to preventing avoidable flooding. Simple steps like not pouring oil and food waste down your drains and not flushing items like baby wipes down the toilet will prevent avoidable blockages and breakdowns. Likewise, there are certain cleaning products that you can use to care for your pipes from the inside.
Taking steps to protect your plumbing system from outside threats is also important. Insulating exposed pipes, for example, will protect them from sudden temperature fluctuations and prevent them from freezing or bursting during hard winters. Certain treatments and insulations will also protect from rust and corrosion.
If you experience a plumbing flood, there are a few basic things you should do to minimize the damage to your home and provide a speedy resolution.
- Find the Source
First and foremost, figure out if the water is backing up into your home or if it is actively leaking from your pipes and appliances. This may not seem like a huge distinction, but it is important to identify the root cause and implement an effective solution. If the water is backing up into your home from, for example, a blocked sewage line, it is likely to come from your drains, sinks, and even your toilet.
If the water is leaking from your pipes or appliances, by contrast, it is likely to be localized to a single area to begin with. It will be recognizable by a visible trickle, drip, or even gushes of water from the affected areas. Water leaking from your system, rather than backing up in it, is more likely to move quickly (if it is severe), while water backing up in your drains may bring a foul odor.
- Turn off the Water
Turning off your home’s water supply is one of the easiest ways to identify roughly what is causing the flood. If the leak is coming from your plumbing system, turning off the water will effectively stop the leak. Doing this will also minimize the damage while you wait for someone to address the issue at hand.
Turning off your water is often as simple as flicking a switch or closing a valve, these days. If you do not know where the mains supply valve is in your house, it is a good idea to find out, so that you can act quickly in the event of a plumbing flood. A plumber should be able to help you find your mains valve if you have no other way of identifying it.
- Call a Professional
Once you have the situation as controlled as you can make it, you should call a professional to make sure the issue is handled quickly. After all, whether the issue at hand is a leaking pipe, a broken sump pump, or a faulty water heater, it is best to have someone who knows what they are doing address the issue. If you try to go it alone, you could make things far worse!
Trying a DIY fix could even be dangerous! A burst pipe may be daunting, but a faulty water heater can seriously scald someone working on it if they do not know what they are doing. All in all, it is far safer, more cost-effective, and efficient to let a professional assess and fix the causes (and results) of a plumbing flood in your home.
How to Avoid Plumbing Problems
Theoretically, it should be possible to avoid having to deal with a plumbing flood as long as you keep your system in good repair and deal with any issues the minute they arise. If you want to keep your system in generally good condition, you should:
- Schedule regular maintenance checks with a plumbing professional
- Never put bones into your garbage disposal
- Never flush sanitary products
- Never pour oil down your drain
- Regularly use drain cleaning products designed to combat fatty buildups
If you keep this in mind, you should be able to avoid many major issues. However, your plumbing system is used daily, so it will degrade over time. You want to catch small issues and nip them in the bud before they escalate to a plumbing flood. If you notice any of these signs, you should have an expert assess your plumbing system immediately:
- A musty smell in your basement or home
- Water around your toilet
- Reduced water pressure
- Increased water bill (with no change in your habits)
These may seem like small things, but they can be indicative of much bigger problems on the horizon.
Call in the Experts to Safeguard Your Home
Of course, it’s hard to guarantee that you will never face a plumbing flood in your home. This is why it pays to have a professional contractor waterproof your basement. As the lowest part of your home, it is the most at risk of flooding and the most likely to collect water should a plumbing flood occur. If you want to minimize the effects of any future plumbing flood, you should call Foundation Recovery Systems to book a free consultation and inspection appointment. Our skilled, knowledgeable, and passionate team will formulate the perfect combination of waterproofing and drainage solutions for your home based on its location, the climate, and any existing damage.
We are dedicated to protecting you and your home from the damage flooding can cause, whether the water comes from your home or the earth beneath it.
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