How to Tell If a Pipe Burst in the Wall: Top Signs

how to tell if a pipe burst in the wall

A burst pipe is one of the most serious plumbing emergencies your house can experience. Broken pipes leak large amounts of water, causing damage to your walls, ceilings, and appliances. 

Today, the team at Aquamanz Plumbing & Heating is here to talk about how to tell if a pipe burst in the wall. We will discuss common causes of pipe bursts and how you can solve the problem. Contact us today for plumbing repair services by Aquamanz Plumbing in Massapequa, NY!

Most Common Signs of a Burst Pipe in the Wall

Burst pipes are a serious issue, so you’ll need to address them quickly. Below are the most common signs that indicate a pipe has burst in your wall. 

Discoloration

One of the most common signs of a burst pipe is discoloration and water stains on the walls. Spotting is most likely to form in areas that collect water near corners and floors. Discoloration tends to be strongest in areas closest to the broken water pipe. 

Mold or Mildew

Mold and mildew growth are also strong indicators that you have a broken pipe. Water is a breeding ground for all kinds of microbes. Water in the walls picks up some growth, and the next thing you know, you see mold and mildew spots across your walls and ceilings. 

In some cases, mold can grow inside the walls, hidden from your view. Mold and mildew can pose a significant health hazard, so you’ll want to call an expert to solve the problem as soon as possible. 

Walls Feel Soft

Drywall consists of a mixture of wood pulp and gypsum powder, two substances that readily absorb water. When there is a water leak, your drywall can absorb the excess water, causing it to become spongy and soft. 

Walls absorbing water may also cause them to swell and bulge. In the worst-case scenario, that additional weight from the absorbed water can cause your drywall to fall off its mounts under its own weight. 

Paint Is Peeling

Water can work its way between the top layer of your paint or wallpaper and start to fester. This can cause blisters, ridges, bumps, and bubbles to form. In some cases, paint can start flaking off the walls from water damage, exposing the bare wall underneath. 

Puddles Near Walls

When learning how to tell if a pipe burst in the wall, standing water is the most crucial sign to recognize. Water from pipes collects in pools near the bottom of walls, floors, toilets, sinks, and fixtures. In some cases, you might actually be able to see the water cascading from a hole into a puddle on the floor.  

Low Water Pressure

If you turn on your faucet and notice low water pressure, it could be a sign of a leaking or broken pipe. Faucets and showerheads need a specific level of water pressure to work. With low water pressure, water will barely trickle out of your fixtures, even when you turn them all the way on. 

Bad Smell

Standing water from leaks and burst pipes is a breeding ground for bacteria and biological growth. Water from pipes can emit a powerful odor, especially if the leak has been there for a long time. Rotting drywall and wood can also leave an unpleasant smell. 

High Water Bills

Burst pipes leak water, which translates into high water bills. If you notice that your water bills are skyrocketing by usage is the same, the problem might be a burst pipe. You can test water consumption through your water meter.  

How to Find a Burst Pipe

Once you determine that you have a leak, you need to pinpoint where it is coming from. Below are some ways to identify the location of a burst pipe. 

  • Visual inspection. In some cases, you can identify the source of the leak just by looking. Look for spots where discoloration is the strongest. You may even be able to see the water coming from the walls. 
  • Moisture meter. Moisture meters detect ambient levels of moisture in the atmosphere. They are a common part of a plumber’s arsenal, but you can rent one from a hardware store. Point the meter at the wall and find the spot with the highest moisture reading; that is likely the location of the leak. 
  • Infrared camera. Infrared cameras don’t detect moisture, but they can detect heat. Locations where leaks are the strongest tend to have lower temperatures. Point the camera at your walls and identify spots that register a lower reading than their surroundings. 
  • Cut into drywall. If all other identification methods fail, it’s time to cut into your wall to find the source. Using a drywall knife, remove the most saturated portions of drywall to see if you can find the pipe. 

Causes of Burst Pipes

Burst pipes have many effects, but what about their causes? Below are some of the most common reasons pipes in your wall burst. 

Frozen Pipes

Water expands when it freezes, meaning frozen pipes are more likely to burst. One way to stop this from happening is to keep water usage low during the winter and turn off the water supply if you are gone for an extended time. 

Roots

Tree roots are surprisingly powerful and can easily crush and poke holes through your pipes from growth. To fix the problem, you will need to cut the roots out and replace the damaged pipe sections. 

Corrosion

Older pipes, especially iron and metal pipes, are susceptible to rust and corrosion over time. As pipes corrode, they get weaker and lose durability. Pressure changes or vibration from usage can cause them to break apart, releasing water. 

Pressure from Clogs

Things like plant matter, sticks, and dirt can clog pipes, causing pressure to build up. Excessively high pressures can cause your pipes to burst. Clogs are most common in pipes that run near the foundation of your home and near its drains. 

Earth Movements

Significant soil shifts can also cause your pipes to break open. Earth shifts can be due to natural causes or human activity, like construction and development. Pipes themselves can shift soil when they expand and contract, leading to further earth movement and pipe damage. 

What to Do About a Burst Pipe

A burst pipe is an emergency, so you’ll need to address the problem quickly before the water damage spreads and becomes unrepairable. If you find a burst pipe, follow these steps:

  • The first thing to do is turn off the water supply. That will stop any additional water flowing from the leak. Don’t turn the water valve back on until you fix the burst pipe.
  • Call an expert plumber to address the problem. A professional plumber can identify the leak source and help you brainstorm solutions. The faster you call a plumber, the lower the wait time for service, so you’ll want to call as early as possible.  
  • Remove any affected furniture, carpets, and other objects from the flooded area. The faster you remove these items, the less overall damage.
  • Try to clean up as much standing water as possible. The more water you remove, the less likely mold and mildew will form. If you have fans, use them to dry the walls and floors near the leak.  
  • Drain any faucets and showerheads to remove standing water still in the pipes. Emptying your pipes removes pressure and prevents any more flowing from the broken pipe section. 
  • If the weather allows it, open your windows and doors to air out the room and remove moisture. Warm temperatures and airflow will help dry any leftover water. 

How to Prevent Burst Pipes

The best way to deal with burst pipes is to prevent them. Follow these tips to minimize the risk of bursting pipes: 

  • Consider upgrading old metal pipes to newer insulated materials. Insulation reduces the risk of freezing in cold weather. 
  • Have an expert test and treat your water pH levels to prevent rusting and corrosion in metal pipes. 
  • During the winter, ensure to turn off any exterior faucets and disconnect water hoses. 
  • Turn off your water supply when leaving for extended periods during the fall and winter. 
  • Put filters or screens on your drains in sinks and showers to keep dirt, skin, and hair from forming clogs. 
  • Get in the habit of periodically cleaning your kitchen sink using vinegar and baking soda. These chemicals will keep your pipes free from grease and food clogs. 

Emergency Plumbing Services in Massapequa

Know that you know how to tell if a pipe burst in the wall, it’s time to take the next step. As the number one plumbing and heating company in Massapequa, NY, we can address any emergency you send our way.  

Burst pipes are not the only water emergency. Read our blog if you want to know the signs your boiler may need repair.

For all your plumbing needs, contact Aquamanz Plumbing & Heating online or call today at (516) 613-2847 to schedule service!