Why is Pipe Freezing a Problem?
Being in the water damage restoration industry allows us to see homes damaged by many forms of water intrusion. When winter hits its hardest and the temperature falls below freezing, the most common water losses we see are caused by pipes freezing and busting. When water freezes, it expands and puts pressure on the pipes in your home causing them to break and dump thousands of gallons of water in and around your home. These types of breaks can be the most destructive to your home and the most disruptive to your everyday life. The good thing is that there are things you can do to prevent this from happening to your home and family.
Which Pipes are Most Likely to Freeze and Bust?
- Water supply lines and manifolds are located in the exterior walls of your home that are poorly insulated or have no insulation at all.
- Water supply lines that are outside your home, above ground, or buried close to the surface, like water sprinkler systems, swimming pool supply systems, and outdoor hose bibs or faucets.
- Water supply lines in unheated areas inside your home. These areas are most likely to be attics, garages, utility closets, under kitchen and bathroom cabinets, crawl spaces, and basements.
- Leaving your heat off and leaving town can cause all the plumbing in your home to freeze if temperatures fall below freezing.
How to PROTECT your Pipes from Freezing:
The best way to protect a pipe from busting in your home and causing serious damage is to be proactive. Pay attention to your local weather and follow these recommendations before the onset of freezing temperatures.
- Protect your swimming pools by draining the pool and the water supply lines. Be sure to follow the directions provided to you by the manufacturer or the installer. It is not recommended to put antifreeze in your pool or in the plumbing lines unless directed. It can be harmful to humans, pets, wildlife, and your landscaping.
- Protect your sprinkler system by turning it off and draining the lines. It is important to check your sprinkler supply lines to make sure they are buried deep enough and properly insulated. It is very common to find improperly installed irrigation systems.
- Protect your outside hose bibs by removing, draining, and storing your water hoses. Some homes have water shut-offs to the outside house bibs located inside the home. If this is the case for you, then turn off the supply of water to your exterior hose bibs and open them up completely from the outside. This prevents any remaining water to expand without causing the pipe to break. If you do not have shut-off valves for your hose bibs, then remove, drain and store your water hoses, wrap your hose bib with a towel or sock and cover your hose bibs with a hard surface exterior faucet cover. You can purchase these at all most any hardware store.
- Protect the water supply lines in your crawl spaces, attics, and basements by adding insulation on and around the pipes. Insulation will help these areas maintain a higher temperature during freezing weather. You can also add heat by running HVAC lines from your furnace into these areas.
- Protect water supply lines in unheated areas of your home like your garage and under bathroom and kitchen cabinets by using products made to insulate pipes. There are many products on the market made specifically for these types of situations such as heat tape and pipe sleeves.
- Check with your plumber if any of these recommendations are out of your skill level. Your plumber may have even more cost-effective tips and insight to help you protect the pipes in your home from freezing and busting.
How to PREVENT Your Pipes from Freezing:
Just as important as protection, is prevention. Here are some preventative steps you can take that can save you from a pipe busting and costing you a lot of money in mitigation and repair.
- Busted pipes in garages caused by freezing are very common. Prevent this from happening to you by simply keeping your garage door closed during freezing weather. You can also use foam insulation to seal the open spaces around your garage door. Plugging in a small space heater and allowing it to run in this area can keep the temperature high enough to prevent your pipes from freezing in our garage.
- Freezing pipes under kitchen and bathroom cabinets are also very common. We notice the most expensive damage to homes is when these pipes burst. Bathrooms and kitchens are some of the most time-consuming areas of the home to mitigate and repair. Prevent this from happening to you by insulating both the hot and cold supply lines and leaving the cabinet doors open to allow warm air from your home to circulate in these areas. If you have children be sure not to leave any harmful cleaners or chemicals within easy reach.
- The most common frozen pipe prevention tip is to let the cold water drip from the faucet during freezing weather. This tip is very effective because running water through a pipe can help prevent freezing, even if it is just a slow drip.
- If your home has central air and heat this is a plus. Be sure to keep the temperature on your thermostat the same both day and night. We have seen the water supply systems in whole houses freeze up and bust because people have turned off their central heat and left town for a couple of days. You may spend a little more on your electric or gas bill, but that’s nothing compared to the cost of repairing the plumbing, drying out your home, and rebuilding it. If you are deciding to leave town, we suggest you set the temperature to no lower than 55°.
Best Ways to THAW Frozen pipes:
Frozen pipes in your home can be a nightmare and if not thawed correctly, can leave you in a world of pain. If you have come to believe that some or all of your pipes have frozen, here are some things you can do that can save you time and money. Please be aware that if all or some of the plumbing in your home happened to freeze then the chance of a pipe already being busted is high. The water has already expanded in your pipes, causing a break, you will not be able to tell until the water has had a chance to thaw.
- The first step you’re going to want to take is turning off the water to your home at the main. Most of the time, there is a homeowner shut-off valve but you may need a water shut-off tool. Doing this will prevent large amounts of water from coming into your home once the pipes have thawed if, in fact, you do have a break somewhere. The most likely place you may have a frozen pipe is against an exterior wall or where your main water supply line enters your home through the slab.
- Turn on the heat in your home and open up all the faucets. As the pipes begin to melt you’re going to want the water to flow through the pipes and into your sink. Running water will also speed up the thawing process. Be sure to keep an eye out for water on the floor and water spots on any drywall. This could be a sign of a break. Also, be sure to keep an ear out, sometimes you can even hear when pipes bust.
- If you are able to locate the frozen pipe and it is accessible, you’re going to want to thaw using a mild transfer of heat. Do not use any open flame technique as this can cause the water to evaporate and build up pressure or cause flammable materials to ignite. Good tools to use would be a hair dryer, space heater, hot water-soaked towels, or an electric heat pad wrapped around the pipe.
- Pipes in your home will generally thaw out as the heat in your home begins to rise with your central heat turned up. Once you believe all the pipes have been thawed then you can turn on the water from the main. This is going to be the time you will generally find out if you have a major break or not. Be sure to only turn the water on for about three seconds then turn it back off. Go inside and inspect for water damage. Repeat this step until you are sure there are no breaks. If you did experience a break then call out a licensed plumber and a reputable water damage restoration company.
- You will know that all the pipes in your home are safe when you regain normal operating pressure and temperature.
If you follow these prevention and protection tips you will be able to avoid any problems with frozen pipes. For any more questions please reply below or give us a call at (512) 934-8180. Also, help your friends and family avoid frozen pipes by sharing this post using the social media icons below.