Tim in Elverta, CA is feeling the heat, or rather, the wet. Recent heavy rains have caused flooding in his town, especially around Howsley Road, and all that water has also wreaked havoc on his home plumbing system. He writes:
“After all the rain this winter, I’m having plumbing troubles. My backyard is turning into a swamp. Even when it doesn’t rain, there are big puddles back there. To make matters worse, the drains in my basement and laundry tub are backing up, and I don’t even use them regularly. I feel bad complaining about too much water after our long drought, but I’m worried about what to do if a pipe has burst in my house. What do you think, am I right to be concerned?”
Well Tim, to be direct, yes, you are. Bursts pipes are common after heavy rains, and the storms we’ve had this year more than qualify as heavy. The problems you’re describing are consistent with what happens to a home after a pipe bursts. Damaged or broken plumbing is a fact of home ownership, but if you recognize the signs and symptoms, you’ll know when to call in professional help, and avoid costly water damage from flooding your home—pun intended.
Burst Pipe Basics
Heavy rains put stress on both municipal and residential plumbing, causing all kinds of flooding. In fact, there were reports in Elverta of flooded creeks, flooded roads, and even flooded cars this winter. Excessive rain is tough for sewer systems and pipes to handle, making the ground softer as water pools and puddles. Rocks, roots, and other debris can then come loose and shift around, smashing into pipes and causing them to burst. What’s most important for homeowners to know about, though, is not why storms damage pipes, but how to tell when this sort of thing has happened in your home.
Pipes are almost always out of sight, buried underground or in walls, so it can be tough to tell when one ruptures. Tough, but not impossible. Let’s take a look at some warning signs:
- Nasty smells: Have the drains, sinks, or other areas in your home started smelling quite bad? If so, this may be a sign of a broken pipe, particularly if you’ve noticed it on the lowest floor. When a pipe bursts, sewage spills out at the point of the rupture, thus releasing its contents—and that smell.
- Sinkholes or puddles: If there are sinkholes or puddles in a yard even though it hasn’t rained in days, as Tim describes above, it’s a strong indication of a break in pipes underground. After all, that water has to come from somewhere, and chances are it’s a ruptured pipe. If left unchecked, this can lead to other problems, including higher water bills, sewer backups, and more, but I’ll get into that in just a minute.
- Odd noises: Bubbling, whistling, or clanking sounds coming from toilets, sinks, or other pipes can also indicate plumbing problems. These noises are how your plumbing system tells you a pipe is damaged or broken, and they often happen because air can’t escape out to a sewer line. All that ruckus means a professional plumber with the ability to diagnose and repair the causes should be immediately called in.
Trickle Down Troubles
Knowing signs of burst pipes is important because unchecked breaches expose your home to clogs, sewage backups, and higher bills. And, as I said earlier, clogs and breaks are often caused by heavy rains—and Elverta has had its share of those this year. According to Weather Underground, the city had 16 days of rainy weather in February. Our friend Tim is experiencing the downside of all that much-needed rain, and if he doesn’t get these issues remedied, more troubles will likely be on the way, like:
- Backups: If this is happening in your drains, bathtub, or toilet, it’s likely because your home’s connection to sewage lines is broken or blocked because of a ruptured pipe. Backups are a nasty business, as the sewage that’s trying to leave your house is pushed back in, overflowing out of your bathtub, toilet, or drains. If this is happening, you probably don’t even need to be told to call a plumber right away.
- Higher utility bills: Was last month’s water bill significantly higher than usual? Like, two or three times higher? This is almost guaranteed to mean water is seeping out of a burst, broken, or clogged pipe somewhere in your home, raising your usage—and your bill.
- Water quality: Contamination infiltrates your system when you have a break in the pipes, making it so that the water you drink and use to bathe begins to change colors and smell odd.
These are all problems that demand urgent attention. I think Tim would agree with me there, if he’s not too busy handling those puddles in his backyard that is. Simply put, if you even so much as suspect a broken or ruptured pipe, especially after heavy rainfall, you should call a professional plumber to check things out the first chance you get.
This is a tricky situation to be sure—so much of your plumbing is out of sight, making it almost impossible to fix without significant plumbing knowledge. After the wet winter we’ve had, Howsley Road isn’t the only place in Elverta that got too much water. I suggest having a routine check performed, even if you’re not dealing with the same sort of troubles Tim and the rest of the city are. Don’t risk it. There’s been plenty of water falling from the sky as of late, don’t let more spill inside of, or underneath, your home.
Our region’s winter storms have put significant stress on our pipes. Contact the plumbing professionals at Bell Brothers today to make sure your home stays dry and clear this spring.