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Shake, Rattle, and Roll - Can Earthquakes Affect Plumbing?

July 09 / 2019

Earthquakes are part of the price we pay to live in beautiful Southern California. And with all the rumbling and shaking going on recently, it is important to know how earthquakes affect plumbing. Your plumbing system is made up of an intricate network of pipes, some you can see, and some are behind walls, under floors, or beneath the ground. These are the pipes that are most susceptible to plumbing issues after an earthquake, and coincidentally can do the most damage. Here is how earthquakes affect plumbing and the warning signs to be on the lookout for.

Burst Pipes and Leaks

Burst pipes and leaks are quite common after a powerful earthquake. As the ground shifts during an earthquake, it creates an unstable environment for your pipes. A shifting foundation can cause pipes to wiggle around, when pipes are not secure they can shift causing weak spots in the joints, or bang the surrounding area causing damage and small leaks. For pipes that are buried underground, the shifting ground can actually cause your pipes to break.    The best line of defense against burst pipes and leaks is to have your plumbing inspected regularly. In areas with active fault lines, earthquakes may happen more frequently than you realize, which means damage can occur without your expecting it. As part of your plumbing maintenance have your plumbing inspected on a regular basis.  [caption id="attachment_3059" align="aligncenter" width="300"]can earthquakes affect plumbing Image Credit: Greenfield Recorder[/caption] In addition, it is also important to know what to be on the lookout for. Some signs you have a leak include:  
  • Visible signs of water damage
  • Unexplained puddles of water
  • Water pressure issues
  • Rodent and pest infestations
  • The smell of mold or mildew
  • Saturated ground
  • Sunken ground
  • Lush patches of grass
  • High water bill

Shifting Water Heater

Your water heater may also be susceptible to earthquake damage. Tank storage water heaters typically store 30-50 gallons of water, which during an earthquake if not properly secured, can get knocked over. This causes damage and wastes water. To prevent your water heater from getting knocked over during an earthquake make sure it is properly secured with a strap kit. These are relatively inexpensive and can be picked up at any hardware store. [caption id="attachment_3060" align="aligncenter" width="214"]earthquakes affect plumbing Image Credit: Oregon State University[/caption]

Gas Leaks

In addition to plumbing leaks, gas lines can also be caused by earthquakes. Gas leaks are serious and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Gas has a sulfur smell, similar to rotten eggs, if you smell this after an earthquake evacuate the area and call the professionals right away. Gas leaks are dangerous because of the increased fire risk, and prolonged exposure can also make you feel sick. Some symptoms of exposure include:   
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Flu like symptoms
  • Chest pain
  • Reduced appetite
  • Ringing in the ears
  After an earthquake is it important to inspect your plumbing for damage. Look for leaks and make repairs right away. If you suspect serious damage, make sure you contact your plumber right away. Southern California has been experiencing earthquake swarms lately, which means the ground is shifting, be prepared and know what to look out for. For more information on how earthquakes affect plumbing contact Rooter Hero today!