How Do Floods Affect Plumbing?

how will this flood affect your plumbing?

When Hurricane Harvey loomed over southwest Texas two weeks ago, it dumped over 50 inches of rainwater on Houston. The record-breaking rainfall resulted in what experts have called the worst floods in Houston history. Thanks to the efforts of disaster response and the brave citizens of Houston, flood waters have receded from most of the city and life has (begun) to return to normal. The greatest flooding danger may be behind us, but unfortunately we can’t relax just yet.

One of the worst things about flooding is the damage it causes isn’t always obvious. Virtually every part of your home will be profoundly affected by massive flooding like this–including, unfortunately, your plumbing. Floods can wreak all sorts of costly or even dangerous havoc on your plumbing system. If you suspect your plumbing system has been affected, don’t hesitate to give us a call.  

floods may cause the ground around your pipes to shift or sink

Shifting Ground

Rainfall causes flooding when it falls so quickly that the ground can’t soak all of it up. When that happens, the soil becomes saturated, or “waterlogged.” Waterlogged soil is considerably softer than it is when it’s dry. It may shift underground, sink into openings or gaps, or drop rocks and other debris it was holding up.

Shifting, waterlogged soil is bad news for anything solid that’s buried in the soil. When the ground gets saturated with water, it can do a lot of damage to your sewer. Waterlogged soil may fail to support the weight of buried pipes or press against it until it ruptures. Pay close attention to the state of your lawn after a flood. If you’re experiencing any of the signs of sewer line break and your lawn seems wet all the time, call us right away.  

flooding may strain your pipes until they burst

Pressure Buildup

Plumbing is built to handle more water than it’d normally have to, but flooding isn’t normal. When too much water enters a drain too quickly, your plumbing struggles to process it all. Eventually, your pipes may end up trying to force water into a pipe or sewer line that’s already full. All the pressure of that pushing puts your pipes under more pressure than they’d usually see or than they’re built to withstand.  

Obviously, any damage lowers your pipe’s useful lifespan and causes problems, but flooding damage can be even worse. When that much pressure blasts through your pipes, it could put them under so much strain that they burst. Pipe ruptures are frustratingly common during heavy rainfall and flooding, so if you start seeing leaks, your plumbing could be struggling to process too much water.

flooding often clogs sewers

Debris Clogs

One of the greatest dangers flooding poses is the debris water can pick up and carry, often at high speeds. When you think of flooding debris, you probably think of large and dramatic examples, like cars flying through houses or entire roofs floating downstream. Tiny debris can do major damage too, however, especially in your plumbing.

When floods pass over an area, the water picks up everything. Dirt, grease, pollution, waste, plastic, garbage–you name it, it ends up in the floodwater. A lot of that stuff isn’t supposed to go down plumbing drains. It’ll either lodge itself in the pipes and get stuck, or it’ll collect on the inner pipe walls. Debris-based clogs can seriously impact your plumbing’s ability to process water quickly and effectively. Depending on the clog, it may also create a chokepoint that will put parts of your pipes under pressure.

flooding can sometimes cause sewers to overflow

Drain Overflow

Floods can make your plumbing system overflow for several reasons. During a flood, so much water enters so many drain pipes that it runs out of places to go. Rushing flood water flows with considerably more force than regular water. It can literally force regular water out of its way.

When rushing water pushes water in the plumbing system, it pushes in the direction of least resistance. That direction is usually through your drain pipes! If you heard a gurgling noise in your drains during the flood, it could have been the sound of displaced water rushing back up the pipes. If enough rushing water enters a system quickly, displaced water could come out of the pipes and enter your home.


Dealing with the aftermath of a flood is a full-time job under the best of circumstances. If you or a loved one has been affected by Hurricane Harvey and requires assistance, shelter, or rescue, use these resources to get it. If you want to help support those affected by the hurricane, you can donate to the official relief fund here, or research other reputable relief organizations here.

Benjamin Franklin Plumbing of Houston wants to do our part to help, too, which is why we’re donating a portion of all proceeds earned in the month of September to Hurricane Harvey relief. If you’re worried about the state of your plumbing, give us a call today. As always, we’re more than happy to help put your mind at ease.