Homeowners around Denver are often concerned about burst pipes. While you might think you only need to worry about this problem in the winter, pipes can burst in the spring and summer, too. Being prepared for these challenges can help you know what to do in the face of an emergency and let you know when it’s time to call in the professionals.
Pipes in Older Homes
Copper pipes are common in homes built during the 1960s. While they are reliable and durable, some copper pipes are soldered with lead, which can leach into your water supply. Copper can also burst. Older homes, including those built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, might have cast iron pipes instead. Cast iron is strong, but it is vulnerable to rust. These pipes can last many decades, but the corrosion will eventually eat through the pipes, leaving them likely to burst even in warm weather. Galvanized steel pipes have similar issues. The steel will rust eventually. The rust can eventually fill the pipe, and the water pressure behind the blockage can further weaken the pipe and trigger a burst.
If you have a home with new pipes added or updated in the 1980s or later, the odds are good that you have PVC pipes. Though they’re less prone to bursting, PVC pipes can warp when used with hot water. There’s a chance that the warped or weakened pipes will crack, which allows water to leak out. PVC pipes can also burst due to blockages.
PEX plumbing is a better alternative to copper, cast iron, or lead pipes, and it’s even superior to PVC pipes. With PEX pipes, you don’t need to worry about them breaking on a cold day. PEX expands and contracts as the temperature changes. Older pipes cannot keep up with those fluctuations, but PEX can.
Why Do Pipes Burst?
There are quite a few reasons why the pipes in older homes burst. Freezing is one of the top reasons. Winter temperatures in Denver range from around 20 degrees to 50 degrees Fahrenheit. When the temperature outside drops to 20 degrees or lower, it takes only six hours for your pipes to begin freezing. If you’re lucky, the pipes will slowly thaw as the temperature rises. Not all homeowners are that lucky though.
Low temperatures cause the water running through your pipes to cool down and eventually freeze. As more water tries to move through the pipe, it causes a buildup of pressure. This pressure can cause the pipes to burst and lead to some major water damage. Pipes in older homes are more at risk of bursting due to freezing because they often lack insulation. Freezing temperatures can also cause pipes to burst if you have any exposed areas under your home that allow the cold air to surround the pipes.
Older pipes have a bigger chance of bursting due to corrosion. Corrosion occurs when you have metal pipes. The pipes develop rust from exposure to the water. Even a small amount of rust weakens the integrity of the pipes. You might see some tiny cracks forming around the joints and along the bottoms of some pipes. There’s also a chance that the pipes will appear warped. As the corrosion worsens, it causes the pipes to fail and break open.
The pipes found in older homes have a higher risk of bursting because of hard water, too. Hard water contains a lot of minerals like calcium and lime. While using a water softener can help, the minerals can still cling to the lining of your pipes. The older your home is, the more time those minerals have to build up. This buildup weakens the structure of your pipes, which causes the pipes to burst.
If your Denver yard has even a few trees, you will need to worry about their roots growing into your pipes. Trees need both water and nutrients to survive. When they cannot get enough nutrients from the surrounding soil, they seek out the nearest source, which is often your pipes. It takes just a tiny crack for the root to find a way inside the pipe. Once there, it grows through the pipes and collects water and nutrients it sends back through the root system. You risk the roots growing large enough that they force the pipe open.
Signs of Pipes About to Burst
Recognizing the warning signs of a weakened or damaged pipe prone to bursting can help you stop problems before they occur. Changes in water pressure are one of the most obvious and biggest sign that there’s a problem with the plumbing. Older homes might be notorious for poor or low water pressure, but it’s not inevitable. If water pressure rises and falls repeatedly, the pipe might be weakened and needs to be addressed sooner rather than later. A qualified plumber has several options to repair the pipe issue at its source.
Water marks and stains are also common with weakening pipes. These stains often appear as dark-colored spots on the walls and floors around the damaged pipe. You might see some spots caused by older leaks, but keep an eye out for signs that the stains are getting bigger. Water stains are usually dark brown but can also appear green or even black. As the leak in the pipe keeps growing, you may notice some water damage around your home as well. This can include weak spots and squishy floors. Mold and an unexplained increase in your water bills are other signs of a potential burst pipe.
Keeping Pipes from Bursting
At High 5 Plumbing, we can help you keep your pipes in good condition and stop them from bursting. We recommend that you start with a full inspection. Let us go over all of the pipes to look for signs of corrosion, leaks, and other problems. Even if you have pipes that run under your old house and are hard to reach, we can still get to them. Our video inspections are just as helpful.
With a video inspection, we place a camera inside one of your drains. We then push it through the pipe and let it run the entire length. This gives us a good look at areas not visible to the naked eye. We can detect tree roots growing inside the pipe, find corrosion that causes the structure to break down, and make sure your pipes are free from clogs. Whether you need a simple repair to fix the problem before your pipes break or brand-new plumbing, we can handle the job.
Protect Your Pipes, Protect Your Home
Older pipes have a higher risk of breaking than modern pipes do. Modern options like PEX plumbing does expand and contract on cold days. They keep the water flowing smoothly during even the harshest of winters. Older pipes are prone to corrosion and a variety of other issues that increase your risk of the pipes bursting. Contact High 5 Plumbing today to make sure you stay on top of the common plumbing problems that affect older homes.