Many residents of Modesto remember the devastating New Year’s Day flood of 1997, when flood waters from heavy rains and melting snow caused the Tuolumne River to rise to an astonishing 71 feet. Most Northern Californians aren’t usually too concerned about flooding, but local experts are beginning to realize that the weirs and dams that were built to protect us aren’t that effective against our occasional spats of heavy rainfall, and we need new strategies to protect our Modesto homes.
If we do see flooding this season, your first thought will be getting your family to shelter. But, once the waters have cleared and it’s safe to go home, you’ll have to assess the damage. Water damage to your home can destroy your belongings and require expensive repairs to walls and floors. What most homeowners don’t realize, though, is that flooding can also cause your underground plumbing to crack and break. Your plumbing may be out of sight, out of mind, but let’s take a look at some warning signs that your pipes didn’t quite escape the damaging effects of a flood.
Three Types of Pipe Damage Caused by Flooding
When your couch is floating in your front yard, and you’re scrambling to save the dry clothes in the top of your dresser, the last thing you’re thinking about is if your underground piping is damaged. But once the waters recede, it’s important to remember to check out your plumbing. Floods, and even heavy rains, can cause the following problems with your pipes:
- Clogged Drains: Flood waters can cause dirt and debris to settle into outdoor piping. If this happens, those clogs can cause your indoor plumbing to back up, causing wastewater to overflow from sinks and toilets.
- Cracks and Breaks: Sitting water caused by heavy rain sinks into the ground, causing saturation. This saturated soil gets heavy—and can weigh on your underground piping, causing cracks and breaks that leak water and sewage into the ground.
- A Shifted Foundation: The force of flood waters, combined with saturated soil, can cause the foundation of your home to shift. This can be a real problem for the piping that comes up through your foundation and into your home, because as the foundation shifts, the piping inside of it will too, moving away from your appliances, and causing cracks and breaks.
The Eight Warning Signs of Underground Plumbing Damage
There is nothing more frustrating than turning on the faucet to find you have no water pressure, or worse, no water at all. Sometimes, though, pipe damage from flooding can be elusive, not showing any signs at all for weeks. But, there are ways to tell if you have damaged or broken underground plumbing. Some things to look for are:
- Bubbling and Whistling Noises: Broken or dented piping will make noises when either air can’t escape sewer lines or the line becomes too small for water to pass through.
- Bad Smells: A persistent foul aroma in your home may be a sign that a pipe is backed up or broken, signaling that sewage is not moving to sewer lines as it is should be.
- Sink Holes: A sinkhole in your yard can indicate an area where the piping has been damaged and the ground has become saturated with wastewater.
- Damp Drywall: Wet areas on drywall or ceilings are indicators that a pipe is leaking or broken.
- Persistent Clogs: Slow flushing toilets, or repeated clogs you just can’t figure out, may indicate damage to piping.
- No Water: Low pressure, or no water at all, from faucets and other appliances that use water, indicates broken plumbing.
- Poor Water Quality: Discolored or pungent-smelling water is a sign of piping corrosion or leakage, and contaminated water.
- High Water Bill: A water bill that is higher than normal could possibly indicate a leak or break in underground piping that is otherwise undetectable.
Not every one of these signs will be obvious if there is a water leak, but once you do see signs of potential pipe damage, you should call a trusted plumbing professional immediately. The longer a leak or break goes without being fixed, the worse—and more expensive—your water quality and sewage removal will be.
How to Prevent Flood Damage to Pipes—and Repair It When It Happens
None of us wake up hoping for a swimming pool in our living room. But when the unimaginable happens, it’s always comforting to know that you are prepared. One way homeowners can prepare themselves for a water disaster is to get flood insurance from The National Flood Insurance Program. While it might seem unnecessary in our dry city of Modesto, it can cover most, or the entire cost, of the damages should a disaster happen. Also, make sure that your plumbing is in good shape and draining properly on a regular basis. This will help minimize the damage from any potential floods.
And if your home is flooded, you can check your outdoor plumbing at the main line for clogs and debris, and in some cases clear it with a tool called an auger that is snaked through your piping. In extreme cases, though, or if there is evidence that there may be damage to your underground pipes, you will need to consult a plumbing expert.
No one anticipates flooding like the one experienced almost twenty years ago, but Mother Nature has her own set of rules. It is always best to be prepared and know what to do in the case of a severe weather event like a flood. Understanding the damage that can happen to underground plumbing, and being on the lookout for signs of damage, are crucial to putting a stop to pipe leaks quickly. The sooner you can identify the problem, the sooner a plumbing professional can repair your underground pipes—and save your home from unnecessary damage.
Remember that you can rely on the plumbing experts at Bell Brothers to help with your damaged piping from unexpected flooding, heavy rains, or any other natural or man-made disaster.