The temperatures in much of the country have started to drop once again, which can only mean one thing - many people are about to learn first hand just how devastating a burst pipe can be. When you come home after a hard day at the office to find that one or more rooms in your home is now covered in freezing water, it can be a naturally stressful and upsetting situation.
But the most important thing for you to do is be present in the moment - stop thinking about the long-term problem this represents and start thinking about what you can do to safely mitigate risk and further damage right this second. As soon as you realize that a pipe has burst in your home, there are a few key things you MUST do next.
What to Do if a Pipe Bursts
In the unfortunate event that a pipe bursts in your home, the most important thing you can do is NOT panic. Go immediately to the main water valve in your home and shut it off as quickly and as calmly as you can. If the pipe had been leaking for awhile and you're now dealing with standing water issues, make sure you also go to the electrical panel and shut off electricity to this part of your home, too.
Next, examine the extent of the damage to the pipe itself. While a burst pipe is something that you may be able to fix on your own if you're the type of person who has always had that DIY spirit, you may want to consider calling a plumber anyway. Enlisting the help of a professional won't just make sure that the pipe gets repaired properly the first time, but their insight can also be valuable in terms of giving you the information you need to stop this from happening again.
Finally, you'll want to start removing water from the affected area as soon as you can to prevent mold, mildew and other issues. Mops and buckets are going to be invaluable during this time and remember that if you need a wet vacuum, you don't necessarily have to purchase one. Many home improvement stores in your area rent this type of equipment to you during normal business hours for just this type of occasion.
The Best Defense is a Good Offense
Along the same lines, you really need to look at a burst pipe for what it really is - a learning opportunity, albeit a frustrating (and chilly) one. In the future when the temperatures start to get extremely cold outside, consider keeping one or two faucets running very slowly at all times throughout your house to help prevent this from happening again. When water is running through your home's plumbing system, it should prevent the line from freezing.
Also, make sure you conduct a thorough examination of the pipes in your home - especially the ones that are near an outside wall or window. Consider installing heat tape or similar types of products on these pipes, in particular, to help prevent them from freezing. Also, make sure that you seal up all leaks in your home that are letting cold air into the areas where your pipes are located.