What Causes A Water Main Break?

What to do when the water main breaks

When you come home and find water gushing uncontrollably from somewhere in your house, you’ll panic. All that water is creating a hazardous and unsafe area, not to mention the damage that it is causing to your home. Then, quickly, you realize that the water needs to be turned off, and that is possible if the water is coming from the water supply within your home or property, like a main water line break

When the uncontrolled gushing water is from a water main break, who is responsible? Well, if the water main break is on the city’s side of the meter, they’ll be responsible for the water main break and repair. This also means you’ll need to contact them to shut the water off. If it is after working hours, on a holiday or weekend, it could take some time for them to arrive, depending on how big of a city or town you live in and how busy the emergency crews are. 

However, if it is on your side of the water meter, the good news is that you can turn the water off yourself. The bad news is, you’ll repair the main water line break at your expense. This also means the whole time the water is gushing, your water meter is running, and your water bill is increasing, rapidly. Some cities and towns will give a customer a discount if the meter reading indicates an extraordinarily high bill the next month if you have advised them of having a main water line break within a short time of the break.

Where is the main water line? 

Typically, the main water lines are approximately three feet deep and enter your house in a direct line from the water meter.  In zones where the weather is warmer year-round, the main water line is sticking up from the ground on the exterior of your house and enters at that point.  It is here that you’ll find a turn off valve, usually in an underground box. There should be a hose bib and a backflow preventer. In colder zones, the main water line is buried deeper below the ground level, going into the basement. Close to where the main water line enters your house, there should be a valve. These valves are in place in case there is an emergency main water line break on your side of the meter.

How does a water main work? 

Water is a natural resource, and it is a complex series of equipment, pipes, and pumps, all operated by trained people that are employed by the city or local water The Co-op.  That water is usually from a nearby lake or river.  It is the job of those employed with the water division to make sure the water system works properly so that the water we get from our water taps is safe.  They also make sure the waste and water we run through the drains or flush are removed safely from the intake water.  

How do you turn off water supply? 

There are typically three valves installed by the city or town where you live before the main water line valve in your home. You should locate this valve now before you have an emergency main water line break, so you know where to go when you do. It is normally located in the basement or outside on an exterior wall of the house. If you have an emergency main water line break, turn this valve clockwise to turn the water to the house off. There are two designs for this shutoff valve: 

  • A Ball Valve: If your house has copper or plastic main water pipes going into your house, this is known as a full-flow ball valve. You must use a pipe to close or open it.
  • A Gate Valve: This is the most reliable valves and lasts for years, but if they aren’t turned very often, they get hard to operate. It is advised to turn it off and back on every so often to keep that from happening.

After closing and opening the valve, the valve stem may leak. You can stop this by tightening the packing nut that holds it in place. 

Whenever you have had to turn the water, let the pipes drain and unscrew the aerators on the faucet ends before turning the water on again. This will keep any small bits of scale that come loose inside the pipes from clogging the aerator.

Does homeowner’s insurance cover water main line?

Every homeowner’s insurance policy is different, but most will cover any emergency and unexpected water damage caused by plumbing malfunction like a main water line break.  However, if upon inspection they determine there has been a constant, slow leak that was not repaired, it will not pay for that damage. 

It is important to know that most homeowner’s insurance policies exclude coverage for damage sustained during any regional flooding. If you live in a flood-prone area, it is recommended to take an additional flood insurance policy.

How do you turn the water off at the street? 

Where your water meter is located, there is a shut-off valve inside the same box. Using an adjustable wrench, also called a crescent wrench, you can shut the water off by turning the valve clockwise.  Big box home repair centers have a water meter valve key you can purchase at different lengths. Many homeowners that have had emergency main water line breaks recommend making that purchase before you need it.

Water is a natural resource that we should take every effort to preserve. The moment you notice a leak in your home or at the outside spigots, make the repair right away. The water that is dripping slowly from the showerhead or a toilet that runs after flushing and refilling is wasting that natural resource. Unfortunately, we don’t always notice a main water line break right away.  Most water main lines are under the pavement today. Main water line breaks are common in extremely cold weather when the ground has frozen for several days, which increases the external stress on the water lines. Call (818) 975-2131 today for your main water line leak repair in Sherman Oaks, CA. Our team is always available to assist you.