Anytime you leave your home on an extended trip, it’s a good rule of thumb to turn off all the utilities – especially the water! This rule is especially important during the winter months when water could potentially freeze and then thaw causing pipes to burst.
That’s just what happened in Detroit, Michigan a few weeks ago when a pipe burst in a vacant 100-year-old home while the owners were away gushing water into the home and eventually out of the windows creating a real-life version of Elsa’s “Frozen” castle.
In addition to home plumbing nightmares, in cold regions you might have noticed the increase in water main breaks every day in yours and neighboring communities. With a nation facing aging infrastructure problems and water and sewer lines deeply affected by rapid temperature changes, it’s no surprise the rate of failures could be thousands per day around the world. But what exactly causes all of these plumbing problems?
When water pipes freeze and expand, the force doubles from around 400 pounds to 800 pounds, creating new cracks or expanding current cracks. Anytime there is a crack in a pipe – whether on private property or a water main, water is escaping and spilling into the ground around the pipe. If this pipe is under a road, a sinkhole could develop quickly and without warning – such as the sinkhole that swallowed a car in Florida just last week.
As a homeowner, you are responsible for the water and sewer lines on your private property. When temperatures rapidly change from warm to cold or dip down below freezing, this creates a perfect storm for a break or leak. Be on the lookout for signs of a problem not only on your own property, but in your neighborhood. Alerting the water or sewer authority of a suspected problem in your area could avoid a potential catastrophe.