A Pipe Burst at My Business – What Should I Do?

By: Diana Rodriguez-Zaba
Updated on: November 15, 2022

Whether it’s a leaky pipe or a sudden pipe burst in your office or commercial building, we can all agree that you have a significant problem in your facility. Water damage doesn’t just soften drywall and ruin flooring. It can spread contaminants and damage the building’s structure, too, making your workplace unsafe.

However, it doesn’t have to stay that way. 

Explore these solutions for addressing commercial water damage so that you can get back to doing what you do best as quickly as possible.

Why Do Pipes Burst in Commercial Facilities?

burst pipe water damage in chicago office
Burst pipe water damage in a Chicago office

If a pipe burst in your office or commercial building, there are several reasons why it could have happened. No matter the type of pipes your facility has—old iron pipes, newer PVC pipes, copper pipes, or any other piping—there’s always a chance they will burst. 

Freezing Weather

In cold climates like Chicago, one of the more common reasons pipes burst is that they freeze. Water expands when it freezes, creating excess pressure and eventually causing the pipe to fail at its weakest points.

Much of the time, pipes will burst at a joint, particularly if it’s an old joint. 

However, sometimes the ice will just split the side of the pipe wide open. Either way, the resulting rupture causes severe damage not only to the pipe, but to your building as well.


In many buildings, pipes are metal, usually galvanized iron or copper. Unfortunately, the minerals in water, even the cleanest water, will wear away the galvanized coating, exposing the bare iron underneath.

Once that happens, the metal starts to rust, which builds up, causing the inside of the pipe to become narrower. Eventually, it can’t withstand the pressure, and it fails. 

Water Pressure Issues

Pipes can only handle a certain amount of pressure. Like ice, rust, and other blockages, a psi that’s too high can cause pipes to burst at the weak points or just out the side. Increasing water pressure, especially if it’s a sudden and extreme increase, is often disastrous for your plumbing system.

You might also lose fixtures such as faucets, spigots, and toilets when your water pressure goes too high, which can cause far more damage faster than a single burst pipe. 

Pipe Movement or “Water Hammer”

Sometimes the brackets or clips securing pipes come loose, and occasionally they weren’t adequately secured in the first place. If you turn your water off and get a knocking or banging sound, that’s called “water hammer,” which means your pipes move around in response to the sudden stop of water flow.

This movement can weaken joints and other parts of the pipes until they fail, which is usually sudden and catastrophic. 

What to Do When a Pipe at Your Business Bursts

You just walked into your business this morning and found water all over the place from a burst pipe. Aside from calling the professionals, there are several steps you can take to prevent more damage than you already have. 

Shut Off Your Electricity

The first step you need to take is shutting off the power to the flooded area. You have electrical outlets, wires, power strips, etc., everywhere and until the power is off, you and anyone else in the building is at risk of electrocution.

You can turn off the power to the entire building if the flooding is too extensive or if you don’t know which breaker switch to flip. 

Find the Source

Sometimes the leak will be obvious (like water spraying out from an exposed pipe), and sometimes it won’t be. You need to know where the leak is so you can shut off the proper valves and lead professionals right to it.

Shut off the Water

Ideally, you can shut off the water main or close the valves to the affected pipe yourself, but you must do so as quickly as possible. 

If, for some reason, you can’t shut off the water, call your building’s emergency maintenance department or whoever handles that kind of thing and get them out to shut the water off as quickly as possible.

Catch Remaining Water

Even after you’ve shut off the water to the burst pipe, water will still flow from it until it’s empty. Grab a bucket to catch it so the flooding doesn’t get any worse than it already is.

Contact Professionals

Call a plumber to get the broken pipe fixed or replaced. However, plumbers deal with the plumbing issue. You also need to contact someone who specializes in cleaning up and repairing water damage, like ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba in Chicago.

Dry Out What You Can

drying office water damage due to burst pipe

After you’ve shut the water off and you’re waiting for us and the plumber to arrive, you should move your essential paperwork, electronics, personal items, and other things out of the flooded area and put them in a dry place.

If you have fans, use those to help dry these things out. Portable dehumidifiers are excellent for this, too. The sooner you get started on drying items out, the less you’ll have to replace later on. 

Start Mopping Up 

Grab a bucket and mop and start cleaning up the water. It might feel like you’re bailing out a sinking ship, but every bit of water you can remove from the affected areas prevents the damage from spreading and helps begin the drying-out process.

Document, Document, Document

Every business owner hates documenting things, but an incident such as this requires it. You need the records for your company and for insurance, not to mention for any potential buyers should you choose to sell the building at some point. Make sure to take pictures if you can, too.

File an Insurance Claim

Call your insurance company as soon as you can to file a claim. Generally, insurance covers incidents like this, so you want to send them your documentation, photographs, and any other information they require. 

Water Damage Restoration

This is where we come in. If you’re in the Chicagoland area, contact the experts at ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba to come out to your property and perform a thorough assessment of the water damage’s extent. We also walk through your facility with you to explain what we see and what we plan to do.

Our repair services include:

  • Using the latest technology to remove contaminants like mold, mildew, soot, dirt, and anything else that can cause ongoing problems
  • Clean up the flooding and dry out your walls, flooring, building structure, and anything else that might have taken in water
  • Repairing and restoring the damaged parts of your building  

We arrive on-site usually within 90 minutes of your call, and we work with you until you’re satisfied with us. 

How to Prevent Burst Pipes in Your Facility

Fortunately, you don’t have to accept burst pipes as a reality of having a business. Here are some steps you can take in the winter to prevent burst pipes.

Protect Your Pipes

pipe insulation

If you’re at risk of frozen pipes, open the faucet farthest from your water main slightly and allow a slow drip to keep water moving through your pipes. That helps prevent pressure from building up should your water freeze. 

You should also insulate exposed pipes with slip-on foam insulation or other types of pipe insulation, and make sure you don’t leave any parts of your pipes exposed.

Also, if you have a crawl space, insulate that, and seal up any cracks in your walls to minimize the amount of warm air that escapes from your building.

Get Regular Inspections and Maintenance

One of the best things you can do is get your business’s plumbing inspected regularly and address any problems before they become serious.

Keep Your Heat on Even When Your Facility Is Empty

Even if you’re closed, whether for the evening, weekend, or holidays, keep your building’s interior temperature above 55 degrees Fahrenheit and insulate any exposed pipes you’ve got. 

Also, opening cabinet doors where there are pipes will allow warm air to circulate around them, preventing them from freezing.

Dealing with Water Damage from a Burst Pipe in the Chicago Area? We Can Help!

If you have a business or commercial facility in the Chicago area and one of your pipes bursts, we can repair and restore your building to your satisfaction. Our experts have 65 years of combined experience in a variety of areas, including taking photos, doing the proper documentation, and performing the restoration itself. 

We can ensure you get back up and running at full capacity as soon as possible. Give us a call at 773-647-1985, or fill out our online contact form!