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11 Warning Signs of a Busted Water Pipe

Burst pipes create plumbing disasters that quickly turn into huge cleanup jobs.

However, a burst pipe often goes unnoticed until it causes serious water damage. Recognizing the warning signs can help prevent a wall collapse, ceiling cave-in, or worse.

In this blog, we share how to recognize the signs of a burst pipe in your home – and what to do about it.

How Do You Know if Your Pipes Burst? (11 Signs You Can’t Ignore)

1. Splashy Faucets

When you open a faucet to fill a glass, it shouldn’t splatter water all over the sink. Fluctuating water pressure may be the result of a pipe rupture in the faucet supply line.

Pro Tip: Puddles under the sink are additional hints of broken pipe trouble.

2. Unusual Noises

You don’t expect to hear dripping sounds inside the walls of your home. Gurgling, hissing and trickling noises are strong indicators that something’s wrong with the plumbing system.

Pro Tip: These types of noises sound louder when they occur in burst pipes with small diameters.

3. Unpleasant Odors

signs of a busted water pipe

Water leaking from a hidden pipe burst can leave traces of naturally occurring iron on pipe components. As the deposit builds up, it creates rusty odors.

Pro Tip: If you detect a rotten egg smell call a licensed plumber right away. The odor of hydrogen sulfide is a sure sign of a broken sewer line.

4. Discolored Walls

Signs of a pipe burst can show up on walls as streaks and stains. Even clean water leaking from a broken supply pipe leaves behind discolored areas of pale beige, light yellow or brown.

Pro Tip: Hidden leaks inside walls are especially concerning because they eventually cause serious damage to structural materials.

5. Persistent Mold

Mold is a household nuisance, but it’s usually easy to clean up. If fungus keeps growing back in the same location, it’s an indicator of a hidden pipe burst.

Pro Tip: Airborne mold spores can impact individual health and compromise indoor air quality.

6. Bubbles, Peels and Cracks

Dampness in drywall materials often shows up as bubbling paint and peeling wallpaper. It can also result in hairline cracks in walls, ceilings and basement interiors.

If you spot any of these problems, leaking burst pipes may be the cause.

Pro Tip: Minimize water damage to your home’s foundation by sealing cracks in basement walls and floors as quickly as possible.

Need to Know: Cracks in basement walls and floors need to be sealed as soon as possible to minimize further water damage to your home’s foundation.

7. Ceiling Stains and Bulges

ceiling stains

When a pipe bursts in the attic, water soaking through insulation into the ceiling below typically appears as circular stains or bulges in the ceiling material.

Burst pipes in an upstairs bathroom or laundry can also leave stains and bulges on downstairs ceilings.

Pro Tip: Minimize the risk of a ceiling collapse by taking care of overhead pipe leaks as quickly as possible.

8. Dripping Ceiling Fixtures

Water dripping down through a ceiling fixture is another sure sign of a pipe burst upstairs or in the attic.

Recessed light fixtures are especially vulnerable to overhead leaks, but a pipe break can send water trickling through ceiling fans, flush-mounted lights and track lighting.

Pro Tip:  If you see water dripping from a ceiling light fixture, turn off the electricity to the room at the breaker box, and call a licensed electrician right away.

9. Humid Interiors

humid interior

Water leaking from a ruptured pipe is absorbed into the surrounding air, increasing humidity levels in areas adjacent to the break. This sign of a burst pipe is most noticeable in attics, bathrooms, basements and laundry rooms.

Pro Tip: Excess humidity resulting from a pipe break contributes to unhealthy mold growth in drywall, ceilings and wood framing, compromising indoor air quality.

10. Puddles Outside

When main water supply lines or drainage pipes break, they can create puddles in the yard. You might also notice pooling at the bottom of sloped areas.

An exterior pipe burst often leaves patches of lawn unusually wet. If grass and plants appear to grow more quickly in isolated spots, it may be due to a broken pipe underground.

Pro Tip: Ground soaked by exterior pipe bursts can cause cracks in sidewalks and driveways.

11. Increased Water Bills

A spike in monthly water bills may be due to a leak from an unnoticed burst pipe.

Over the course of a few weeks, even a small drip significantly increases the volume of water flowing through your home’s plumbing system.

If you suspect a problem, review water bills from the past few months and keep a close eye on the water meter.

Pro Tip: Many utility companies’ websites allow you to compare your monthly water usage to that of other customers in the area.

How to Deal With a Burst Pipe

how to deal with a burst pipe

Whether it’s water damage from a leaking pipe break or a frozen burst pipe, you need to take care of the situation right away. Get things under control with the following action plan.

  • Turn Off and Assess – Shut down the main water line coming into your home, and then locate the burst pipe. If the break is too big for DIY repairs, temporarily fix it with pipe repair tape or a clamp repair kit.
  • Make Three Phone Calls – Call your insurance agent, and start the process for filing your water damage claim. Contact a licensed plumber who repairs the pipe burst with a permanent fix. Connect with restoration professionals who quickly clean up and mitigate the damage.
  • Document Your Losses – Support your insurance claim with documentation of the water damage caused by the pipe burst. Take pictures of affected interiors and belongings, and include photos of the broken pipe. Don’t throw away soaked belongings. Your water damage pros can often clean and restore furnishings and personal items.
  • Circulate Fresh Air – If possible, open windows in rooms adjacent to the pipe break. Circulate fresh air by running fans and a dehumidifier in these areas. Open closet and cabinet doors, and leave entryways open.

Need Burst Pipe Water Damage Cleanup in Chicago, IL or the Subrubs? We’re a Phone Call Away.

Sudden pipe breaks and leaking pipe bursts cause water damage that quickly spreads throughout your home or business. Cleanup can turn into a huge project, but you don’t have to do it by yourself.

If you’re in the Chicago area, ServiceMaster of Lake Shore stands ready to help 24/7. We clean up the mess, restore your property and even assist with your insurance claim.

We’re always just a phone call away with expert burst pipe water damage cleanup services: 312-707-8597

Helpful Resources

Mold Basics – CDC
Hard Water Solutions – Energy.gov
Water Shut Off Tips – Chicago.gov


Why do frozen pipe bursts usually cause flooding instead of leaks?

When the water in a frozen burst pipe thaws, pressure buildup behind the break forces water through the ruptured pipe wall. The change in pressure isn’t as dramatic in other types of pipe bursts and usually only results in leaking.

Are some types of pipes more likely to burst than others?

Freezing weather can affect all types of pipes. For example, both copper and CPVC pipes are commonly used as water supply lines. Without proper insulation, the metal and the thermoplastic are both susceptible to freezing temperatures.

What are the benefits of hiring a water damage company for burst pipe cleanup?

A water damage company uses specialized equipment for water extraction and structural drying. Their teams handle everything from initial cleanup and water damage mitigation to complete property restoration.