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How an Earthquake Can Affect Your Home’s Plumbing

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The quaking is over. Everyone is accounted for, and you’re able to move safely around your home. But what about your home’s plumbing? It can be easy to overlook after being literally shaken by an earthquake, but following any major tremor, it’s always wise to give your home a quick plumbing inspection to make sure that it hasn’t sustained any damage.

Below, we’ll go into more detail about how earthquakes can affect a home’s plumbing, along with ways to inspect your home’s plumbing following an earthquake.

How Earthquakes Can Affect Plumbing

A plumbing system can experience a variety of problems due to an earthquake. The shifting of soil can cause sewer lines to crack and pipes to loosen at their joints. Just the shockwaves themselves can disrupt any part of your plumbing system that’s located underground. Water heaters can also become dislodged or prone to gas leaks.

If your main water line is damaged, the quality of the water entering your home might also be compromised. For your health, it’s best to keep an eye on your water quality following an earthquake and make sure that it’s free of any discoloration or strange odors.

Even if your home sustained no cosmetic damage on the surface due to an earthquake, less obvious damage to your home’s plumbing can have a major effect on the rest of your home. Water damage can be costly to repair, and the resulting mold growth (which can begin to appear in as little as 24 hours) will cost additional money to control.

What To Do After the Quake Is Over

Once everything stops shaking and it’s safe to re-enter your home, there are three major things to check.

1. Check for Water Leaks

It’s possible that the earthquake may have loosened or dislodged plumbing pipes, so it’s always a good idea to check for these signs of a leak:

  • Water or wet spots on your floor, walls, or ceiling

  • Sounds of water running, trickling, or dripping

  • Low water pressure from your faucets

If you spot a leak, shut off your home’s main supply of water and contact a plumber.

2. Check for Gas Leaks

The easiest way to detect a gas leak is by smell. Walk through each room of your home to see if you detect the scent of rotten eggs anywhere. In its unaltered state, natural gas has no smell, but as a safety feature, mercaptan is added to gas to make it easier to detect. Mercaptan contains sulfur, which is the main reason why people compare the smell to that of rotten eggs.

You might also be able to hear a gas leak. It will usually sound like a persistent hiss.

If you detect gas in your home, follow these steps immediately to keep safe:

  • Open the window closest to where you detected the leak. To prevent an explosion, don’t turn on any lights or use any appliances.

  • Evacuate your home immediately. Alert everyone inside to evacuate as well if anyone else is at home.

  • If you know where it’s located, shut off the main gas valve outside your home. Do not attempt to turn this back on without a professional.

  • While keeping a safe distance from your home, contact your gas company to alert them of the leak.

  • The technician from the gas company will be able to shut off your gas supply if you have not already shut it off. They will investigate the source of the leak in your home, but it will be your responsibility to hire a plumber or HVAC technician to fix the leak.

3. Check Your Sewer Line for Damage

Your sewer line is where all of the wastewater from every drain and toilet in your home goes, and it’s a critical part of your home’s plumbing. Before anyone turns water on or flushes a toilet, it's important to inspect your home for possible damage to your sewer line.

Here are some of the obvious signs of a sewer line issue:

  • Sewage or wastewater on your home’s floor

  • The smell of sewage inside your house or in your yard

  • Wet spots in the yard that were not there previously

Sometimes, a damaged sewer line doesn’t make itself known right away. If you start to notice an increase in your water bill or water damage around your floors and foundation, this could also indicate that you have a sewer line issue.

Earthquake Home Protection

If you live in a region that’s known for earthquakes, it’s wise to make sure your home is as prepared as possible in case the Big One ever strikes. In Los Angeles, Moe Plumbing Services has experts that can advise and assist you with the proper ways to protect your home from costly water damage and dangerous gas leaks. Among other services, our technicians can make sure that your water heater is properly braced as well as equip your home with automatic gas shut-off valves.

Call (818) 396-8002 to get started with your earthquake home protection in Los Angeles!

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