Explaining Burst Water Mains

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    Guide Author

    James Longley

    Managing Director

    min read
    Last Updated December 9, 2021

    Water mains break. That statement shouldn’t come as a surprise. When a business is affected by a burst water main, it can be shocking at just how disruptive it can be to day-to-day operations.

    Cooking, cleaning, drinking, washing, toilet flushes – water is essential for making life easier. Plus, some businesses rely heavily on water to complete certain processes or manufacture products. If their water supply is cut off for just a few hours, it could cause significant damage to their profit margins.

    Fortunately, broken water mains are not a common occurrence. Yet why do they happen in the first place? Also, what can you do if you need to fix a water main? This article will shed some light on those questions.

    Age and material of pipes

    Due to natural wear and tear, one of the main concerns revolve around the water mains’ age. In general, the older a pipe is, the more susceptible it is to suffer a break. This is particularly the case for any pipes that predate the 1980s.

    The reason for this is due to the different materials used back in the day. Blue poly is seen as the industry standard material for current water mains due to its strength and flexibility. Yet, in the past, lead was often the material of choice. Lead pipes are known for deteriorating over time, which jeopardises their structural integrity, leading to leaks.

    An accidental excavation

    When work must be done underground, there’s always the risk an excavation can go wrong. Whether it’s you or a professional contractor doing the job, it is all too easy to hit a water pipe when utilising digging equipment unintentionally.

    While you may get lucky and only touch the pipe – and not damage it – this isn’t likely when using heavy excavation machinery. Plus, you can even cause significant damage from only using a shovel.

    Change in pressure

    There are two main ways in which a water main can suffer from a pressure change. A shift in temperature is arguably the most common way. Known also as a thermal expansion, a pipe heating up or freezing will cause it to expand and contract. This can sometimes result in a rupture.

    Even though it is less common, water hammer can also lead to a damaging change in pressure. What’ water hammer’ means is what happens when a fire hydrant is either closed or opened too fast.

    Corrosive soils

    Certain soils are corrosive. As a result, it can eat away at the pipes’ structural integrity over time and cause breaks. This is a common issue for pipes that are made with iron and other metals. Plus, it doesn’t help if pipes or fittings haven’t received the right preventative measures against corrosion.

    Ground movement

    As you will likely have learned during geography classes at school, the soil is a dynamic product that changes over time. Soil that exists around a water main can also take its time to settle over time.

    Sadly, if enough settling happens, it can cause stress any pipes that reside underneath the ground. This stress may ultimately break a pipe.

    How Can a Burst Water Main Be Corrected?

    If you are in the unfortunate position of dealing with a burst water main, there’s no point sitting around and hoping the issue will fix itself. You need to take action – and quick.

    This begins by finding the right professional for the job. Yes, you can contemplate the possibility of correcting the broken water main on your own. Yet this is a task that demands expert knowledge and skills. Watching a few YouTube videos or reading some guides won’t cut it.

    When you find a professional with the best combination of ability, reputation, and price, enlist them for the job. Considering the detection of a burst water pipe’s issue often starts by listening to it, you must bring in someone who knows what they’re doing.

    Depending on the severity of the burst main, it is possible you could see water return to your premises within an hour. This can happen due to a ‘rezone’, which effectively utilises a different set of pipes to bring water to your area. If a traditional water main fix is necessary, many different factors will affect the time needed before you can return to normal – although most jobs are often done within three hours.

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