What Causes Underground Pipe Damage?

What Causes Underground Pipe Damage?

What Causes Underground Pipe Damage?

Have you noticed an unusual spike in your water bills? Perhaps there’s a problem with your underground plumbing system. Underground pipes run beneath your home and property and are fundamental to your plumbing system.


If left unchecked, damaged pipes could result in water contamination and significant damage to your property.


So, homeowners need to understand the causes of underground pipe damage. Here are some factors that could affect your underground pipe system.

Aged pipework

Underground plumbing lines are very durable—some last for up to 100 years or more if well maintained. But definitely, they don’t last forever.


The lifespan of underground pipes is consnidered to be 10 to 70 years.


Therefore, if you notice signs of a damaged underground pipe, perhaps it might be nearing the end of its lifespan.


If your house was constructed many years back, your underground pipes could be prone to damage.

Ground movements

Underground movements can shift the placement of your underground lines, causing damage. In addition, the activities may bend, twist, crack or separate the pipes. This may cause problems with the water supply, including leakages.


Underground movements may result from;

●Tree roots

Tree roots put pressure on your pipes leading to cracks and leaks. Although underground water pipes are solid, they may not be strong enough to hold the pressure from invasive tree roots.


And as the roots spread, the excess pressure squeezes the pipes beyond structural limits, eventually damaging the pipes.


Massive construction projects, if not planned well, could damage underground pipes. If someone accidentally drills into an underground line, the pipe will burst. Excavation could dent, scrape, cut, or impair the outside coating of the pipe.


Typical forms of excavation that could damage your underground pipework include;

  • Digging
  • Trenching
  • Boring
  • Grading

This often occurs during road construction and maintenance, new home construction, intensive farming activities, and more.

●Tremors and earthquakes

Earthquakes and tremors can cause extensive damage to underground water supply lines. The vibrations from earth tremors cause surface rupture and ground displacement, which can cause underground pipe damage.


Also, earthquakes can trigger liquefaction, turning loose soil into liquid. This undermines the foundation of pipelines, bridges, roads, and other properties.

High water pressure

Water pipes can only withstand water pressures up to a certain level. Most pipes come labeled with the correct water pressures they can hold (measured in psi).


The lines will burst if the underground pipes cannot hold up to the excessive water pressures. Also, if more water is pumped through the underground pipes, it could result in leakages and bursts.


Additionally, if a narrow water pipe is used to supply more water, it could damage due to excessive water pressure.

Poor installation

Installation of underground pipes requires a trained, experienced and skillful professional. If an unqualified and inexperienced individual does the plumbing, the system is susceptible to damage.


Improper pipework and connections usually result in bursts and leaks. For instance, an unqualified plumber may join a larger pipe to a small one of less thickness. Unfortunately, these two pipes have different water pressure limits.


While the larger pipe can withstand excessive water pressure, the small pipe will eventually burst when exposed to extreme stress.

Temperature change

A drop in temperature levels can be detrimental to your underground pipework. Underground pipes that pass through places with temperate climates are bound to accelerate corrosion.


Corrosion in underground pipes is often associated with age. When exposed to elements for an extended period, metal pipes will rust or corrode, weakening the entire plumbing system. And a small crack eventually turns into a complete rupture over time, damaging the underground water pipe.


Therefore, you should regularly check for signs of corrosion in pipes, including discoloration and warping.

How to prevent underground pipe damage

Underground pipe damage may result in substantial financial losses, property damage, and even loss of lives. It could also lead to disruption of water supply within a particular region. However, there are various ways to prevent such incidents from happening.

Proper installation

Incorrect pipe laying could cause damage to your plumbing system. Therefore, you should always use a professional licensed plumber for all underground pipework.


The pipes and connectors should be laid appropriately to prevent damage and leakages. In addition, the lines should be subjected to the correct water pressures to avoid bursting.


The connections should be strong enough (reinforced) to hold the water pressures.

Avoid planting trees above the underground pipes

You should avoid planting trees with expansive and fast-growing roots above the underground pipes. This includes;

  • Eucalyptus
  • Sycamore
  • Tulip
  • Oak
  • Fig

Before planting a tree in your backyard, it’s essential to do a thorough inspection to identify the position of underground pipes.


Additionally, you can install preventive growth barriers around tree roots to redirect the roots. Also, you can plant trees that do not spread roots deeper into the soil, including magnolia, dogwood, and cherry.

Site inspections

Before starting any construction project, you should thoroughly inspect the place to identify any underground infrastructure. Construction projects like road and highway maintenance and even house building can damage underground infrastructure.


You can accidentally dig or drill through an underground water pipe damaging the entire plumbing system.

What to do after an underground pipe damage

Despite all measures to prevent underground pipe damage, it can still occur due to uncontrolled factors like earthquakes. Therefore it’s essential to understand the next steps after damage to underground infrastructure.


The first step is to stop the liquid flow and prevent further damage and losses. If you can access the main shut-off valve, turn it off to stop the liquid from running through the pipes. This also helps prevent contamination.


Then, contact a professional and licensed plumber to repair or replace the pipes.

Key Takeaways

Underground pipe damage can cause contamination, leakages, and property damage. This usually happens due to high water pressure, corrosion, blocked drains, poor installation, and ground movements.


Therefore, you should constantly look out for signs of underground pipe damage to prevent losses and damages. If you notice any damage to your underground plumbing system, get in touch with a licensed and experienced plumber straight away.



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