A burst pipe can be a MAJOR headache. And it often happens during winter, when temps drop and frozen water inside a pipe expands, putting enough pressure on a pipe to cause a fissure or crack.

Since most homeowners don’t have a plumber on speed dial to help at a moment’s notice, it pays to know what you can do to help mitigate serious damage. Here’s how to handle it.

1. Shut off the water supply

The first thing you should do is shut off the main water supply to stop or minimize flooding or leaking. In fact, in the event of any kind of plumbing emergency, it’s a good idea to know how to shut off your water supply. Most homes have individual shutoffs for specific fixtures and appliances (like at a toilet) and a main or master shutoff which cuts the water supply to your entire house. Depending on where you live, these may be located outside your home (usually for those who live in warmer climates) or inside your home (like in a basement). Familiarize yourself with the shutoffs in your home and locate any equipment you might need to perform a shut off in an emergency situation (like a flashlight or a wrench).

2. Turn on a faucet

After a pipe bursts and you’ve turned off the water main, open a faucet to drain any remaining water in the system and relieve the existing pressure left in the pipes. You might also want to flush your toilet a few times. Start with cold water taps and then turn off your water boiler to release water from the hot taps.

3. Call a plumber

Now that you’ve done the most urgent tasks, it’s time to get professional help. Call a reputable plumber and explain your emergency. While you wait, you can attempt the remaining steps in this list.

4. Crank the heat

You want to warm up your home to prevent additional pipes from bursting. Close your garage door (if it’s attached to your home), and use fans to blow warm air into the space. Open cabinets that have plumbing inside (like under a sink vanity) so warm air can more easily circulate around the pipes. The most vulnerable pipes will be in unheated spaces like your garage, the basement, or a crawl space. Also, remember to leave a faucet open so water can drain from the pipes as it warms and melts.

5. Stop the leak

If there’s an active leak from a pipe, you can try to place a clamp on the pipe to stop the flow of water. A standard C-clamp can be used along with a block of wood and a piece of rubber to improvise a temporary fix.

6. Clean up

Do what you can to clean up any standing water as fast as possible. Water damages wood and other surfaces quickly and can lead to mold, mildew, and other issues, so don’t delay. Use a mop, bucket, or even a shop vacuum to get rid of as much water as possible.

Prevention is the best defense

When it comes to limiting damage from a burst pipe, prevention is bar none your best bet. Insulate pipes to help prevent future bursts, learn about other steps you can take to keep your pipes warm in winter, and talk to your insurer to find out how your homeowners plan will protect you in the event of a burst pipe or other plumbing issues.

And while you’re at it, make sure your homeowners insurance is up to date too. Get a free quote today.

Safe and smart | Home safety

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about Rebecca

Rebecca is a freelance copywriter and editor living in the SF Bay Area with her husband and two kids. She enjoys productively channeling her anxiety into safety-minded articles for home and garden, running with her robot trainer, and advocating on behalf of the Oxford comma.