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Busted! 3 Types of Leaky Pipes Explained

When pipes fail or break, water leaks can create damage that requires significant restorative work. And, unfortunately, it doesn’t take a lot of water to cause damage.

Pipes burst when exposed to freezing temperatures, high pressures, corrosion or anything that would weaken the pipes themselves. Slow leaks can be just as damaging, often undetectable for days or weeks until the effects of water become visible on your foundation, ceiling or walls.

Consider the following three types of pipe leaks and how they may damage your home so you can be prepared:


When you have a pipe that bursts, there is a sudden break or split where the water inside sprays or gushes out.

You’ll find this often with frozen pipes, where temperatures drop rapidly and stay below freezing for an extended time. Water in its solid form takes up more space than liquid H20, so when the water inside pipes freezes and expands, the pipes can break quickly once it begins to thaw. These breaks can cause your home or basement to flood.


Leaky pipes covered by drywall can be difficult to spot, as much damage occurs before the problem becomes visible.

Whether a pipe breaks or you find a slow-leaking water connector in the plumbing, the odds are the water behind walls will eventually present itself in various ways. Look for these signs of hidden leaky plumbing:

  • Bubbling paint. As water spreads behind the wall, it will damage the framing and destroy the effectiveness of insulation, eventually protruding out to the paint.

  • Water stains on ceilings. By the time you notice a stain on the ceiling, water will have already traveled down a path to its lowest level (which can be a fair distance away).

  • Unexplained mold. Drywall that stays wet from the inside will lead to exterior mold over time. At that point, you may also have some structural damage to repair.


Did you know slab leaks are caused by failure in a home’s plumbing system?

As with leaks behind drywall or in your home’s ceilings, slab leaks are typically slow leaks that go unnoticed until outward signs become visible.

When builders construct a slab foundation, they layer concrete over a crushed gravel base, lay out the home’s sewer and drain lines and cover it all with compacted sand. Faulty installation, weakened water lines, and even chemical reactions of metals in the earth to metals in the plumbing system may result in slab or foundation leaks.

Some signs of slab leaks include:

  • High water bill. If your water bill changes significantly in a short period, you should have a plumber inspect your home. This is also true of other types of leaks, not just slabs.

  • Flooring damage. Puddles, warped flooring or wet carpet could indicate a slab leak.

  • Warm spot on the floor. This could indicate a leak in your hot water pipe.

  • Sound of running water. You might hear the hissing sound of water running between the walls.

  • Warped baseboards or interior wall cracks. Mold spots may also be visible, as this level of structural damage can indicate the water has been present for some time.


The process of recovering from a pipe break or leak includes four main steps:

First, turn off the water.

Don’t know where the main water line is located? We encourage homeowners to get familiar with this well before a water loss emergency. Doing so may prevent an insurance claim and thousands of dollars in repair costs later.

Further, use something bright to flag the shutoff valve for the whole household to see. Download our printable, “How to Shut Off Your Main Water Valve,” for best practices on how to locate and turn off your water valve. You should also become familiar with how to turn off a valve hooked to a specific room, such as the bathroom.

Second, make sure you are entering a safe location. Do not enter a room with standing water, especially if the electricity has not been turned off. The condition of the water could be grey, contaminated water – something you would not want to contact directly.

Third, if safe to do so, begin moving heirlooms or your valued possessions. For insurance purposes, you’ll want to create an inventory (photos and videos) of your valued items before the damage. If it’s too late for that, take pictures of what you can and remove those items from the water as quickly as possible.

Fourth, call in your preferred professionals. Plumbers, insurance providers and water damage restoration professionals should all be among those you call straight away.

If you have a pipe leak and need help with the cleanup, call our professional water mitigation team at ServiceMaster DSI. We are ready to respond 24/7/365 to restore your home from a disaster – whether large or small. Please fill out our Contact Us form or call us at 844-413-3130 for assistance.