Winter temperatures can cause water pipes to burst. Why do pipes break?

The answer is that when water is frozen into ice, it expands, causing solid ice to fill more volume than liquid. The ice can cause a pipe to burst.

John Galeotafiore, an associate director of product testing at Consumer Reports, said that ice will burst a pipe if there is no relief. Home maintenance guides are produced by his organization.

"I've seen copper pipes burst, but it's not always due to a weak spot in the pipe," he said. Plastic piping is not immune to the effects of age.


Some people have said that they have plastic piping. It's not the solution, even though it might offer a slight delay.

When water is frozen, its molecule expands into an open hexagonal arrangement, which takes up more space than when it's in liquid form.

Liquid water is pushed towards the closed faucet by the ice. This causes a lot of water pressure to build between the ice and the faucet, which causes the pipe to break.

The pipe segments upstream aren't in danger of bursting because the pressure isn't good enough. The water can always retreat back to its source if it's blocked.

The pipes that are most at risk of bursting are those located outside of building insulation or in the interior of the house. You will need to flush out your piping systems before the winter to reduce the risk of damage to your property.

There is a danger point at temperatures of about 20 degrees. Water not flowing at all or water flowing more slowly than usual is a danger sign. That is a sign that the pipes are getting cold.

These vulnerable pipes can be insulated with fiberglass or foam. Keeping the faucet open and letting the water run at a trickle will help keep the water pressure down. If there are holes in the wall that let in daylight, people are urged to go into their attic or crawl space on a sunny day.

Call a professional if you need more insulation as there might be safety concerns or other problems associated with putting large amounts of modern insulation in a house at the same time. It's important to be careful if your house has a substance that can cause health issues.

If you're away from the house for more than a day, it's a good idea to make sure your interior temperature is at least 62 F (17 C). Shut off the water at the source. "Don't worry about the cost savings, because it's going to be a lot less expensive than repairing a broken pipe," he said.

Here are a few things you can do if you have a burst pipe. If the pipe is underneath a kitchen or bathroom sink in a cabinet, you can open the doors to expose it. Try running a hairdryer in the lowest part of the pipe to break up the ice. Make sure there are no leaks when you turn the main back on slowly.

If the pipe has burst and flooded the area, Galeotafiore said to never wade into the water as you can't be sure of safe footing or of staying safe from an electrical shock. It takes a professional to deal with that. If you can't shut off the water without going into the flooded area, your plumbing company will take care of the problem.

When renting or buying a home, residence owners should always be aware of the age of the pipes, the type of pipes and the health of the pipes as soon as possible before or after moving in. He said plumbing is one of the top things to know about.

Repiping can cost several thousand dollars and take several days to complete. After the plumbing is replaced, your walls will need to be re-plastered. That investment will help prevent leaks and ice vulnerability in the future. Insurance may cover the procedure if you are lucky.

It was originally published on Live Science