How A Broken Water Main Can Flood Your Basement & What To Do About It

Subsurface News, Water Line Replacement
July 9, 2018

by David Balkan

Flood Basement Broken Water Main

Water mains are located under the streets and sidewalks of every city. Water mains and service lines supply water to homes and businesses every minute of every day. They’re generally out of sight, and out of mind. That is, unless there’s a leak or a broken water main. This can lead to some very serious consequences if you are a homeowner or business owner. Many times, the break causes flooding in basements that can range anywhere from puddle to several inches of water. Just exactly what causes a broken water main and how on earth does all that water make its way into the basement?

Flood Basement Broken Water Main

Causes Of A Broken Water Main

The most sever water main occur during the winter months. That is when air and water temperatures drop, and then rise the most dramatically. The water freezes and expands, causing damage to the pipe itself. When the thaw cycle hits, it allows water to flow out freely. However, water main breaks can also occur in hot, dry weather as the volume of water increases. Ground shifts around water lines also occurs during warm weather as well. Other factors include the material pipes are made of, their age, and the amount of corrosion they’ve accumulated. Of course, human activities are also responsible for some breaks, by way of shifting ground due to previous work, or an accidentally hitting a pipe with a shovel, or heavy equipment.

Certain materials when they break, are also more prone to be more severe. For instance, unlike copper and lead tubing, galvanized and ductile iron pipe are more prone to rupture or split. That is not to say that ductile iron pipe is not a superlative material, which it is. It simply means that when it does break, it can split, and fully break in a 360 degree fashion. Likewise, when a galvanized water line leaks, it tends to be severe.

Identifying A Water Main Break

Perhaps the first indication that you may have of a severely broken water main is a loss of water coming out of faucets. Or simply put , low water pressure in your home. This is because the water pressure is diverted to the area that’s leaking, thus, not allowing the water to flow through the rest of your pipes. Other indications include water flowing out of the ground and accumulating at street level.

A more subtle leak where the water seeps underground and takes a long time to reach the surface is also possible. Perhaps the most disturbing to homeowners and businesses, however, is water building up in the basement of the structure. This is prevalent in areas like NYC where homes and businesses are located close to the street under which the water mains are located.

broken water main
The source of a severe leak can be hard to pinpoint

In most cases the sign if you have a broken water main will be much more subtle at first. Unfortunately it is one that you may tend to ignore. If you hear a rumbling sound, particularly at night, that is a sign you have a plumbing issue. When water runs it makes your pipes vibrant, hence a rumbling sound. This sound is particularly evident at night, when your home is relatively quiet. This is not a sound to ignore. Rather, you should call your local plumber or local water authority. In NYC that is accomplished by dialing 311, and clearing stating your suspected issue is that of a fresh water leak. Mkae sure the 311 operator does not misinterpret your issue as a sewer problem.

Why Does Water Fill A Basement?

You might think that a basement is a sealed system that keeps moisture out. That is only true to a degree. Concrete, stone and other materials generally used in basement walls and flooring are porous. That means they allow water to move through them. The majority of the time, the water isn’t at a high enough volume, or concentrated area, to make its way inside. However, when a break in a water main occurs, it can release thousands of gallons of water in a very short amount of time.

water line leak
It took 4 pumps and a relief pipe to beat this leak!

Water from a leak making its way into your basement depends on the severity of the leak. When the ground is saturated in from a leak, the water may have no place flow freely but into your basement. That is when it seeps through the walls, or under the floor, into your basement. If the main break is particularly close to a structure, the problem will be even more pronounced. Unfortunately, once water finds its way into your basement, nothing short of turning your line off will stop it.

Managing a Break In Your Water Service Line

If you notice water building up in your basement, don’t hesitate to call a professional in to evaluate the situation. As with many of life’s issues, procrastinating will only make the problem worse. Not only will a flooded basement cause damage to your building, or home, it can also destroy anything stored there. Keep in mind that many water main contractors provide free and no obligation site visits. That means there is virtually no reason to wait to make that call.

broken water main
Balkan is NYC’s expert water main contractor

Naturally your personal possessions, or business assets, are important to you. That is why items stored in your basement should be stored in waterproof containers, and off the floor to minimize the possibility of damage. Not only will it damage your property, but water that is left to stand will become stagnant, smelly and could cause health issues. Your close neighbors will also likely suffer some of the same consequences.

If you suspect that there is a water main break causing basement flooding in your NYC building, contact Balkan Sewer And Water Main Service immediately. We’re experts at sewer and water main repairs, and we’ll take care of the problem before it becomes a disaster. For more than six decades, our family has been addressing sewer and water main problems in Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, and the Bronx. Plus, we stand by our work 100%, which is why we offer a full ten year guarantee on every replacement job we do.

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David Balkan

David Balkan is the CEO of Balkan Sewer And Water Main, the largest and most trusted service in New York City. David is extremely active in various NYC plumber organizations being the Chairman of the Subsurface Committee in the Master Plumbers Council, and Vice President of the Subsurface Plumbers Association. In addition David’s expertise is respected by officials of New York City agencies such as the NYC DEP, NYC DOB, and the NYC DOT. He frequently provides valuable input on a variety of industry related matters.

Dave Balkan

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