When the water main to your home breaks you need to act fast. Depending on how large the fissure is in the main you could have a large problem or a catastrophe. Water main breaks are bad no matter how they happen or how big they are.
The water main is the piping the brings water into your home. There is a meter that the municipality uses to track usage and calculate your bill. That meter is found between the water source on the street and the pipes leading to your house. And that is typically where you would shut off water to your home in the case of an emergency.
Because the water is being fed to everyone in your neighborhood, the water is running through the pipes with high pressure. If one of those pipes breaks, you now have high pressure pushing water into your yard out of site. You may not see that there is a problem until you discover the swamp in your yard, or you see your water bill much, much higher than usual.
Common Causes of Water Main Break
There are several reasons a water main might break. Some you can do something about, and some you can’t.
- Ground settling
- Shifting due to quick fluctuations in temperature or moisture content
- Tree roots growing into the pipes
- Old pipes rusting on the inside of the pipes
- Corrosive soil on the outside of the pipes
- Sudden pressure changes in the pipes
- Good old fashioned mistake with a backhoe
Ground settling is just a part of nature. It’s a function of how compacted the ground is. Most of the time your water mains do not have a lot of new weight on them, but fluctuations in the moisture content of the ground is a significant factor for settling. This means that unusually wet or unusually dry seasons can cause ground shifting. It also means that improper drainage from the ground in question can cause shifting to happen.
Weight has a big impact on settling as well. This is why new houses always experience settling. But Trees and other landscaping can be quite heavy as they grow. A small tree planted when the house was built will have no impact on the ground settling, but 10 -15 years later the tree could be quite large and heavy. It will also absorb more of the groundwater as a mature tree than it did as a sapling.
Vehicles driven or parked on the yard will add weight to affect the shifting of the ground.
Shifting Due to Fluctuations in Temperature or Moisture Content
Florida has big fluctuations in temperature, and it can happen quickly. In fact, normally it does. It doesn’t get too cold for too long anywhere in Florida (well, at least when compared to other parts of the country) so when we get a cold snap, it usually comes in quickly, and leaves quickly.
Tree Roots Growing into The Pipes
Tree roots will grow slowly, and initially, when the root meets your underground water main, the pipe will stop the root. But as it continues to grow, it will get bigger and persist in pushing on the pipe. Over time, the pressure on the pipe will be too much for it and it will breach the pipe. Once the pipe is broken, water will seep into your yard. With a weakened pipe its only a matter of time before it is cracked wide open and turning a yard into a bog and growing your water bill beyond imagination.
Pipes Rusting or Corroding on the Inside
Metal corrodes. Iron, galvanized steel, or copper, there will come a time that water running through the pipes will wear it out. It can be a function of time, and there are many very old homes in Florida, but it can also be affected by what is in the water. Water coming from your municipality is treated and deemed safe for human consumption and is intended to balance the water to slow corrosion, but it will corrode. Combine this weakness with other factors and you accelerate the failure.
Corrosive Soil on the Outside of the Pipes
Of course, there is the soil on the outside of the pipes as well. There are all sorts of naturally occurring corrosive agents that could be in the soil which can work to corrode the water main pipes that are buried underground. Over time, with corrosion working on the inside and also on the outside, pipes will fail.
Sudden Pressure Changes in the Pipes
Water pressure changes put stress on pipes. Normally the changes can be handled. But when they are extreme and sudden, they have been known to be the cause of water main breaks. One of the most common things that will affect the pressure on the water main pipes is when a fire hydrant is turned on suddenly, or suddenly closed off. It’s something called a ‘water hammer’. As a homeowner, you won’t have any control over the fire hydrant, but you should be aware of this as a possible cause of water main breaks.
Mistake with A Backhoe
This is a sad one because it can usually be avoided; and the one cause of a main break that you will probably be aware of when it happens. Always know where your pipes are before you dig. This is good advice, not only to avoid breaking the water main, but also to avoid cutting your underground power lines, gas lines, and perhaps the most terrifying, your internet access.
Indicators of a Break in the Water Main
Since the water main is below the surface of the ground, you’re not normally going to see the break. You’re just going to see symptoms of the break. Any ONE of these things could be observed without any other, so each should be investigated even if you don’t experience any of the others:
- Unusually high water bill with no change in usage
- Puddles in your yard where you normally don’t have one
- Patches of grass that are especially green
- Less water pressure in the house than normal
- Depressions in the yard
- Unusually wet road
- New cracks in the foundation
Unusually High Water Bill with No Change in Usage
This is a very good indicator of a problem. Water bills that suddenly – and for no apparent reason – skyrocket, are an indication of a problem. If you encounter this in conjunction with any of the other symptoms listed here, there is a good chance you have a water main break in your yard, and you are flooding the ground around your home.
Puddles in Your Yard Where You Normally Don’t Have One
The water supply to your home comes from pipes underground, so if you suddenly find puddles of water in your yard, and you don’t have another clear reason (like a water hose or heavy rain) you probably have a broken pipe. It could be a water main or a sewer pipe. Either way it’s a problem that you need to investigate right away.
Patches of Grass That Are Especially Green
Another symptom of a broken pipe underground in your yard is if you have patches of grass that seem to be especially well nourished. Like puddles, this could be from either the water supply to your home, or it could be a sewer pipe leading from your home out.
Less Water Pressure in The House Than Normal
The water pressure into your home should remain fairly steady. If you suddenly lose water pressure, it could be a symptom of a break in the pipes underground. You might want to check with neighbors and see if they too have diminished water pressure. If you don’t know your neighbors, it is a good opportunity to meet them. If the entire neighborhood is affected, it is more likely that the problem is not in your yard. But if it only seems to be affecting you, it’s certainly time to investigate. Especially if you are experiencing any of the other symptoms.
Depressions in The Yard
Sinkholes are a situation where the dirt and sediment and rock are washed away or dissolved underground creating a hole into which everything above it will sink. If you see a depression in the yard that wasn’t previously there, it could be that a broken water pipe is starting the process of washing away soil. This doesn’t mean you will develop a full sinkhole, but there are similarities and you should be concerned enough to investigate.
Unusually Wet Road
Sometimes you might see an odd situation where, on a hot clear day, when there hasn’t been any rain, you’ll see the roadway wet in front of your yard, but nothing else is wet. Not your yard or the neighbors. This could be caused by a sprinkler that is broken, a sprinkler pipe underground that is broken, or as the whole article has been suggesting, a water main to your home is broken.
New Cracks in The Foundation
Cracks in the foundation of your home will often happen when the home is first settling. You have probably already noticed those and are aware of where they are. You may have done something about them or painted over the cracks etc., but if you have a new crack that hasn’t been there before, it could be an indication that the ground under your foundation is shifting again. If that is happening, new cracks appearing, you may have additional shifting of earth.
If you have other symptoms on this list, especially the high water bills, you may have a problem with a water main break. Water under your foundation, which is causing additional settling, or heaven forbid a sinkhole, will also start to saturate the foundation of your home. Concrete slabs are porous, and water can seep through cracks and even through the tiny capillaries and cause your foundation to get wet, destroy carpet, flooring, walls, and more, including the significant risk of growing hazardous mold.
A water main break is a serious thing that can cause untold amounts of damage to your home. And there are several possible causes for a water main break. If you experience any of these symptoms, pay attention – and get help.
We hope you never need our services. But if the unexpected happens, Relax and Trust Construemax.