Published onNovember 25th, 2020
Burst Pipes in Buildings – What to Do Before Calling Your Plumber
As master plumbers serving New York City, we often get service calls for burst pipes in buildings. What owners and property managers do in those first few minutes after a pipe bursts can mean the difference between minimal disturbance and disaster for the property. Here are seven things to do before you call your plumber.
Shut Off the Water
Prevent further damage
One of the first things you should do after a pipe bursts is to shut off the water supplying that area. Depending on the location of the incident and the size and plumbing anatomy of your building, you may need to shut off the water supply to the entire building, or you may be able to shut off the supply to one area only.
It’s imperative that any staff members at your property who would deal with a water emergency know where the water shutoff valve is located and how to operate it. It’s probably a good idea to post this information as well for new workers and visiting tradespeople. If you rent a small property that is not supplied with a superintendent, make sure tenants also know how to shut off the water in an emergency.
Turn Off the Electricity (If Needed)
Eliminate the risk of electric shock
In some instances, shutting off electricity may also be necessary, either to the entire property or to certain areas. This is to prevent the risk of electric shock or even electrocution to anyone nearby. Remember, water conducts electricity, so standing water where wires, outlets, or fixtures are exposed can precipitate hazards. Just like with the water shutoff valve, make sure anyone who might need to knows how to turn off the electricity.
In case of a massive pipe burst, where water is pouring out of a large pipe, shutting off the electricity may be even more important than shutting off the water, so tend to that first. Use whatever circuit breakers are needed to kill power to the area or to the building. If access to your circuit panel can only be gained in areas with standing water, however, do not shut off the electricity. Exit the building, evacuate any people in harm’s way, and call the fire department via 911.
Turn on Taps
Drain remaining water
You need to remove any water left in the pipes once the main water supply has been shut off. Often, there are drain valves at the bottom of a riser. You can also do this by turning on taps affected by the burst pipe. Run the hot and cold water at all faucets, and give every toilet a flush as well.
Notify Tenants and Staff
Let them know what to expect
Having a water emergency in a multi-unit building is different than in a single-family home. You will need to communicate with people as quickly as possible about what is happening. First, get anyone in danger out of the building. You may have to use the fire alarm system if the danger is life-threatening.
Next, talk to people who are going to be inconvenienced by the situation. Let them know what happened, why the water (and possibly electricity) is out, and when they can expect service returned. Talk to building staff too, and let them know if they need to be pulled from other tasks or will need to work overtime.
Start Mitigating Water Damage
Mop, bail, or vacuum
Depending on the scenario, you may want to start cleaning up before even calling your plumber. It will make it easier for them to work, it will minimize damage to the property’s structure, and it will reduce the loss of tenants’ belongings. You’ll have to figure out how to get rid of the water. A small amount can be cleaned with a mop or a shop vac, but you may need a water removal specialist for deep water or water that’s seeped into walls and carpeting.
Call Your Insurance Company
Start a claim
In some cases of negligence or downright vandalism, a tenant may be responsible for a burst pipe and the damage that ensues. However, in most cases, you will be responsible. Therefore, it’s important to contact your insurance carrier as soon as possible and start a claim.
Locate the Leak
Know where to direct your plumber
It’s best if you can locate the leak before you call your plumber. Why? Because they’ll have a better idea of how long to schedule for the job, how many people to bring, and what tools or parts they’ll need.
Clearly, there will be some cases where a pipe bursts inside a wall, and it will be hard to pinpoint the source. But whenever possible, try to get a handle on it before the plumber arrives. If the burst pipe was caused by ice in a frozen pipe, you may want to try thawing the area prior to the plumber arriving. Open cabinet doors, turn up the heat, or use portable heaters or hair dryers when possible to melt the ice.
“An Ounce of Prevention Is Worth a Pound of Cure”
The benefits of routine plumbing maintenance
You can often prevent burst pipes by paying attention to your plumbing and heeding warning signs before little issues turn into big, expensive ones. Insulating pipes can keep them from freezing, and replacing old, worn pipes can stop leaks before they happen.
Whether you want to schedule an appointment for a yearly check or do some planned plumbing upgrades, Sanitary Plumbing is here to help. Call us at 212-734-5000 or reach out online to leave us a message or schedule a service call. And if you do have a burst pipe or other plumbing catastrophe, we’re available 24/7 for emergency assistance.