Published onJuly 6th, 2023
What Do You Do If a Pipe Bursts? How to Handle Water Emergencies in Multi-Unit Buildings
A building’s plumbing is foundational to tenant life and standard operations. Any flaw or interruption in service can create headaches and blowback for property owners, which is why routine maintenance and inspections are vital.
A small leak is one thing, but a line break is a significant issue that disrupts building operations and imposes severe inconveniences on tenant life. Consequently, as a property owner, what do you do if a pipe bursts?
What Do You Do If a Pipe Bursts?
Shut Off the Supply
To circumvent significant property loss, maintenance staff or property owners must immediately shut off the water supply. Focus on the shut-off valve nearest the break. With any luck, cutting the supply to the break is sufficient.
For an in-unit break, the valve is usually near a water heater or under a sink. If the rupture occurs in a main supply line, the shut-off is likely in the basement or boiler room of the property.
If you cannot locate the valve, you may need to request the city shut off the main supply to the building. Sanitary Plumbing can send a licensed plumber to locate the leak and shut off the correct valve.
Turn Off the Electricity
While not always necessary, turning off the electricity after a water disaster is an excellent idea. Electricity and water don’t mix, and the combination can result in electrocution and possible death. Water can also cause electrical systems to malfunction, causing potential fires.
As with shutting off the water supply if a pipe bursts, building owners or staff can focus on cutting the power to only the affected areas or the entire property. Some professionals suggest that, depending on the severity of the pipe break, the primary focus should be on shutting down electrical systems and then water supplies.
Open the Faucets
Typically, temperature changes are responsible for a pipe burst. Colder temperatures can cause water to freeze in the lines resulting in increasing pressure that eventually breaks the pipe. As the temperatures warm, the break becomes apparent as water pours out of the line.
Still, temperature fluctuations are not the sole cause of pressure building in the system. Objects, gunk, and debris can also cause pressure buildup.
Regardless of the cause, once a break occurs, property owners need to help relieve the pressure in the system. The best way to relieve the pressure is to open the lines at the faucets. For localized breaks, you can focus on turning on the taps nearest the damage. More significant or central breaks may require opening every faucet in the property.
Also, if a pipe bursts for temperature-related reasons, focus heat on the water lines and open any cabinet doors that may interfere with piping receiving warmth. The objective is to melt any remaining ice in the pipes.
Notify Staff and Residents
After shutting off the water supply, building owners must focus on notifying residents and staff of the situation. Let all essential personnel know first so they can help you spread the word to tenants. Then, contact the people directly affected by the issue and inform them of their options.
When a pipe breaks, it can lead to significant damage that may take days or more to fix. Tenants cannot go without water for that long, so they may need to find alternative living arrangements during plumbing repairs. You may have a few available units in other buildings in your portfolio to provide temporary housing.
If there is an immediate safety risk to the building, staff must notify all tenants to evacuate the property. Sometimes, it is easier to pull an alarm than knock door-to-door.
Contact Your Insurer
After following standard safety protocols, the next thing you do if a pipe bursts in your building is to call the insurance company. You want to start the claims process as soon as possible to avoid coverage and financial delays.
Insurance adjusters are busy individuals, and their priorities may differ from yours. To streamline the claims process, you must understand the damage and your policy. While quick notification is one way to move the process along, you want to ensure the adjuster is not trying to speed through a report without all the proper knowledge.
A qualified plumbing service, such as Sanitary Plumbing, can act as a liaison between you and your insurer. They can ensure all parties understand the damages and repair necessities.
Mitigate Further Property Damage
Many property owners fear touching anything after experiencing property damage, especially if a pipe bursts and floods specific building areas. Still, most insurance companies require that policyholders mitigate further property damage.
Mitigation is not the same as repairs or restoration. To mitigate further water loss, remove excess water and dry the area. The previous steps of turning off the supply and turning on faucets are also part of the mitigation process.
Many insurers will not cover damages that result from poor mitigation practices or neglect. Talk to your insurance provider to determine basic mitigation practices, and contact Sanitary Plumbing for help cleaning up after a disaster.
Notify a Professional
Finally, with your insurance adjuster’s approval, you will notify a licensed and local plumbing service to repair the damage. The company will send a qualified team to replace breaks and test fixtures. Also, the team can help with the property’s restoration.
Most contractors in the emergency response market either possess the industry knowledge and tools to restore a property or have contacts for other contractors and partners. Either way, professionals ensure the repairs occur fast and on budget, returning your property to full operations and occupancy.
What Do You Do If a Pipe Bursts?
Take Action and Secure Your Property Against Future Loss
What do you do if a pipe bursts in your building? The only option is to become reactionary, following the above steps to ensure safety, coverage, and timely repair. A better option is to adopt proactive behaviors, like adhering to maintenance and inspection schedules to prevent breaks and freezing. Contact Sanitary Plumbing at 212-734-5000 to discuss service contracts and plumbing maintenance schedules.