Are You Experiencing Cracking Pipes at Home? Here’s Why

Whether you’ve recently received a water bill that’s much higher than you expected or have begun to smell something foul in or around your home, the culprit may be cracking pipes. Your home’s plumbing system is durable and long-lasting, but it’s not invincible—especially if you’ve skipped out on regular maintenance. Cracks in pipes can occur for numerous reasons, and it’s incredibly important to find out the culprit behind the conundrum. Why? Because it’s the key to preventing it from happening in the future.

The truth about cracking pipes is that, sometimes, they occur due to no fault of your own. Water and sewer pipes get put under a tremendous amount of daily wear and tear, and while you can expect, on average, 80–100 years of use from a newly installed pipe system, older homes run the risk of age-related damage. Have a newer home? You’re not totally in the clear. Neglecting annual drain cleaning is a recipe for disaster. While these are two of the most common reasons pipes will crack, other times, the cause of damage is a little more unexpected. Not to fret; the professionals at Mr. Rooter Plumbing are here to help. Let’s take a look at exactly why your pipes are cracking and what you can do about it next.

What Causes Pipe Cracking in Homes?

Whether you have PVC, copper, or cast iron pipes, they are all susceptible to cracking. The tricky part about this particular type of damage? Broken pipes leak water and sewage, causing potential health and safety hazards in your home. It can be difficult to detect the reason why you’re noticing higher utility bills without a professional inspection. After a plumber takes a look at your plumbing system, they may find one of the following causes of cracking pipes.

Tree Roots

Those big, beautiful trees you planted in your yard? While they make the perfect place to relax in the shade, underneath the surface, they have long, strong roots that are searching for water. Tree roots go to great lengths to find water–including through your water line or sewer pipes. With their extreme force, they can infiltrate pipes, slowly cracking the exterior. While they get what they want and find a water source, your pipes remain cracked and leak raw sewage or water into your backyard. This may result in lush green patches of grass and unpleasant odors, as well as larger problems such as sewage backup and high utility costs.

Irregular Maintenance

One of the most common causes of cracking pipes, neglecting maintenance may seem inconsequential at the time, but failure to clean your pipes and address issues when they are small can lead to much larger issues in the future. Case in point: the cracked pipes you’re dealing with currently. Irregular maintenance, or complete lack of, can cause debris to build up inside of your plumbing system, which puts added stress on pipes and pipe joints. Add in the daily wear and tear of extremely hot water, constant flushing or running water, and hard water corrosion, and you have yourself the perfect recipe for cracked pipes.

Regular Wear & Tear

Not all causes of cracked pipes are preventable. Regular wear and tear is one of the causes that is both preventable and unpreventable, depending on the type and level of damage. Wear and tear caused by improperly using your plumbing system is completely preventable. Wear and tear that comes from hard water corrosion is not. Everyday use of your plumbing takes a toll on pipes. A few of the unpreventable ways in which daily wear and tear affect your pipes include:

  • Pressurization. Water travels through your pipes at an extreme pressure. This type of water damage can cause your pipes to wear down and weaken.
  • Corrosion. Corrosion occurs in metal pipes only. While copper pipes are more resistant to corrosion than iron pipes are, hard water supplies loaded with minerals can cause any type of metal pipe to deteriorate.
  • Vibration. Vibrations travel through your pipes every time your pump goes on. Mixed with pressure, they can cause damage.
  • Temperature. Hot water causes thermal expansion in your pipes. Cold water causes retraction. This temperature flux can lead to cracking.

Age-Related Damage

As with any kind of material, no matter what your pipes are made from, they will begin to weaken with age. The good news is that water pipes can last for over 100 years, especially if you have PVC pipes. PVC wasn’t used 100 years ago, so if you are facing this particular problem, you likely have copper, steel, or brass pipes.

Age-related damage can show itself in many forms, but cracking is the most common. When pipe material begins to break down in certain areas, the metal becomes impaired. When pressurized water hits the pipe, it can cause a hairline crack, which only worsens with time. If you catch the crack soon enough, you can avoid a total replacement of your pipe, but it may make more sense to get a full sewer or water line replacement for the sake of preventing similar issues in the near future.

Improper Installation

The pipe installation process involves digging a trench, laying the bedding and ensuring it is pitched correctly, then laying the pipe and backfilling the trench. If just one of the steps is performed incorrectly, pressure may be put on a particular section of the pipe, causing it to eventually crack from water or sewage.

Shifting Soil

Soil naturally expands and contracts with moisture. This causes your pipes to sink or shift position, which not only can lead to pipe cracking. Most of Texas has relatively dry soil, which tends to pull away from homes, triggering foundational movements. These movements often lead to cracks in the foundation, along with plumbing issues.

Sewer Backup

Clogged pipes, tree roots, and municipal sewer issues are the main culprits of sewer backups. It’s not uncommon for the intense pressure to cause cracking pipes. It is frustrating and unpredictable, but a professional plumber is able to recommend preventative measures.

Dangers of Cracked Pipes

If this is your first time experiencing cracked pipes, then you may be wondering if it's really worth fixing them. The way we look at it, you have two options. 1.) Get your pipes fixed as soon as you notice the crack or experience an issue. 2.) Neglect them and run the risk of sewer backup, high energy bills, and costly repairs. Cracked pipes never fix themselves and only continue to get worse.

Pipe damage can cause so many more issues than just leaks, though a leak is what causes the many dangers of cracking pipes. Here are a few reasons why you’ll want to fix your pipes right away when you notice damage.

  1. Water Damage. Leaks can cause water damage to your home’s floors and furniture or, worse, its foundation. In fact, leaks can even cause electrical fires, mold in your insulation, and wood rot on wooden beams, door trim, windows, and more.
  2. Sewer Backup. Don’t clogs cause sewer backup? They can, but so can cracking pipes. A crack in your pipe may create a blockage in your pipe or a total collapse. This will obstruct your sewer pipe and cause it to back up. The last thing you want to deal with is sewage backup and pipe replacement. These disasters are enough to handle on their own.
  3. Rising Utility Bills. A cracked pipe in your water line can cause water to leak. While this is harder to spot with your underground pipes, you may notice lush green patches on your lawn or a higher-than-normal water bill. A lush lawn may not be the worst thing, but it is a sign something troubling is taking place underground.
  4. Low Water Pressure. Cracks will allow water to leak out, compromising the level of pressure you receive in your shower or out of the tap. Low water pressure isn’t a terrible danger, more like an inconvenience, but it is a sign that your pipes are damaged.

How To Spot Cracking Pipes at Home

Since you’re reading this blog, you probably have the feeling that something is up with your pipes. No one knows your plumbing system better than you do, so you’ve likely detected a hiccup in your regular routines that’s causing you to worry. Early detection of cracking pipes is the best way to prevent disastrous issues from occurring, so first of all, well done. Keeping an eye on the condition of your water and sewer lines is an important part of regular maintenance. Thinking ahead for the future? Keep an eye out for these common signs:

  • Rising utility bills. If you receive a bill that’s much higher than your last and you can’t figure out why, a cracked pipe may be to blame. Cracks in pipes cause leaks, which means that when you run the tap, you may need to run it for longer to fill the sink or washing machine. The longer you run the tap, the more water escapes through the crack.
  • Low water pressure. When the water flow isn’t coming out of your shower or tap at the same level of pressure it used to, you likely have a crack in the line that’s letting some of the water escape. Don’t mistake this as a water supply issue; it’s most likely caused by damage.
  • Water leaks. Most water leaks in your plumbing system aren’t visible, but some are. Plus, some underground leaks will show themselves via water damage on your floors and walls.
  • Lush grass. Is one area of your lawn greener and lusher than the rest? You likely have a leak in the pipe directly underneath it caused by a crack.
  • Annoying pipe noises. Gurgling and sucking noises are often caused by pipe cracking.
  • Mold. Occurring in wet, warm places, mold grows quickly. If you have a cracking pipe, then the water it’s releasing through the crack behind your wall or under your floor may lead to mold. With its quick reproduction rate, you may see mold in multiple areas around your home or spot it emerging from your cupboards or crawl space.

How Do You Effectively Fix Cracked Pipes?

Your pipes are cracked; now what? Is this an issue you can fix on your own? Most times, the answer is no unless the pipe is visible and you are looking for a quick, temporary fix. There are varying degrees of cracked pipes, which means there are different ways to approach them, including both trenchless and traditional methods.

Pipe Lining

This trenchless method of pipe repair requires no excavation of your yard. It involves lining the interior of your pipe to create a smooth, strong surface. It’s usually completed in one day and will extend the life of your pipes.

Pipe Bursting

Another trenchless method of pipe repair, pipe bursting involves the use of hydraulic equipment to burst apart affected sections of pipe before sliding a new one in its place. This is also a quickly completed service that can be completed in a single day.

Pipe Replacement

If the entirety of your plumbing system is affected by cracks and damage, you will need an entire replacement. In this case, your professional plumber will dig a trench in your backyard or jackhammer the concrete slab under your home to access the affected section. This permanent solution will give you a completely new plumbing system that will last a lifetime.

Cracking Pipe: Prevention 101

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: the best way to prevent cracked pipes is with regular professional maintenance. This includes an annual inspection of your plumbing system, drain cleaning, and performing any small repairs that are necessary when they occur. Mr. Rooter Plumbing offers drain cleaning and drain repair services to help prevent unnecessary issues from arising.

No More Cracking Pipes When You Rely On Mr. Rooter Plumbing For Help!

Do you suspect you have a cracked pipe? Get in touch with the professionals at Mr. Rooter Plumbing. We will inspect your pipes to get to the root cause of the issue and help you prevent it in the future, if possible. Facing a pipe rupture is never easy, but with expert help, the damage will be addressed quickly and repaired properly.

With us, you’ll never have to worry about low-quality workmanship or parts, and what’s more, we back all of our work with a guarantee that it will last. Get expert help with your cracking pipes today by calling or using the online contact form.