Pipes can burst any time of year under enough pressure, but winter weather brings an increased risk of pipes freezing and bursting. Whether you walk into work one day to puddles on the floor or notice stained walls, low water pressure or other telltale signs, it’s important to establish proper protocols for clean up and recovery.
Act quickly and you’ll be able to save your business from unprofitable downtime and permanent water damage. Here’s what you should do if a frozen pipe bursts in your commercial facility.
1 – Shut off your water
After sending nonessential employees home for the day and communicating your contingency plan, the first thing you should do is shut off your water main. Know where these controls are located and how to use them ahead of time, then document this information in your emergency plans.
If you’re concerned the water may have reached your fuse box or electrical sockets, take the extra precaution of shutting off electricity as well to prevent electrical shock, fires and other hazards. Most importantly, if you can’t reach your fuse box due to standing water or dangerous conditions caused by flooding, don’t try! Skip ahead to step four and call an experienced professional who can take emergency cases on short notice.
2 – Shut off your water heater
After shutting off your water, you should always turn off your water heater, too, as a safety precaution. Simply put, water heaters aren’t built to run without water. Most gas-fired heaters contain a heat exchanger that transfers warmth from the heater to the water. Without water pulling away that heat, the mechanism can overheat and crack. If this happens, combustion gas, usually carbon dioxide, will leak into the immediate area.
A damaged water heater means no hot water in your facility until you can find a repair service. Avoid the cost to fix and the downtime by turning your water heater off right after you flip the switch on your water main.
3 – Optional: locate the pipe
After you’ve turned off your water and water heater, the next step is to start the repair process. However, before you move on to step four, you may want to take a moment to locate the damaged pipe. There are a few reasons for this:
- If the pipe has damaged drywall, floorboards or carpet, you can immediately begin planning for repair. Knowing what needs done in advance means that while the plumber fixes your pipes you can be on the phone with your facilities or building manager getting supplies or services ordered for a complete repair. You may even discover you aren’t in need of extra services to fix the problem and can instead handle it in-house.
- Many plumbers charge by the hour. If your business is large with several rooms, finding the damaged pipe ahead of time can save the plumber the time they would usually spend searching for the problem.
- Knowing where the pipe is and what has been damaged can help you fill the plumber in on your issues over the phone and leave them better prepared to take on your job.
At the end of the day, taking a moment to find the burst pipe gives you a better idea of the situation you’re dealing with. To find the offending pipe, search your facility for signs of staining, flooding, bulging walls and water damage.
4- Repair the pipe or call a plumber
At this point, the pipe must be repaired. You have several options, depending on your facility. Many businesses have a facilities manager on hand to handle pipe repairs or call a contracted plumber for assistance.
Whether you have a facilities manager or not, keep a trustworthy and reliable plumber’s number on file in case of emergencies and try to develop a relationship with them before any emergencies occur. If you’re tool savvy and confident in your abilities, you can also replace the pipe yourself. But as with any business emergency, we suggest calling in a professional for help. Screwing up a pipe replacement can only add to your stress levels in an already harrowing situation.
5 – Check for water damage
Once your pipe has been repaired and your water is back on, you should immediately check for water damage and address any damage you found in step 3. Mold can grow on damp surfaces within just 24 hours and make your employees sick, so spring into action as quickly as possible.
Finding water within your walls means the drywall will need to be removed and either dried out or replaced entirely. This isn’t as simple as firing up a YouTube tutorial and repairing a PVC pipe, so it’s usually best left to the pros.
Even if you don’t see obvious puddles, discoloration or warped walls, you can still have moisture inside your walls. Unless you want to tear out your walls yourself, the best course of action is to make sure your plumber checks for water damage in your walls after repairing your pipe, or call in another professional with a moisture meter to take a look.
The Pros: ServiceMaster Recovery Management
ServiceMaster Recovery Management (SRM) specializes in assisting with frozen pipe recovery and cleanup quickly and efficiently. Our tried and true process has helped many commercial facilities reopen quickly, even after facing water damage.
Once SRM is on-site, we execute all steps to recover mentioned above from shutting off your water to determining a plan for attack for managing water damage. Our process is as follows:
- Turn off water and identify the location of the burst pipe. Once found, our team searches for water damage to your facility.
- Our team then uses specialized transportable thermal imaging equipment to track the water’s path through your property. If water reached your basement or adjacent rooms, we’ll know.
- Once we know which parts of the building have been affected by water, we can determine the full extent of the damage through ceilings, floors, walls, light fixtures and mechanical damage.
- After damage has been identified and recorded, we work with you to decide the best possible plan of attack. Mainly, how will we dry your property, what equipment will we use and how quickly can we get you back up and running.
The best time to plan for a burst frozen pipe is now. Reach out to ServiceMaster Recovery Management for more information on our disaster recovery partnership program, the first of its kind. By partnering with SRM, you’re guaranteed to be prepared for whatever this winter throws your way.
Learn more about SRM’s Commercial Frozen Pipes Services here.