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 by the manufacturer. It’s 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.
- Protect the water supply lines in your crawl space, attic, and basement by adding insulation on and around the pipes. Insulation will help these areas maintain a higher temperature during freezing weather.
- 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 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 pipes busting.
- 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.
- Bathrooms and kitchens are some of the most time-consuming areas of the home to restore. Leave the cabinet doors open to allow warm air from your home to circulate in these areas.
- 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 even if it is just a slow drip.
- It’s great if your home has central air and heat. Be sure to keep the temperature on your thermostat similar day and night. We’ve seen the water supply systems in whole houses freeze and bust because people turned off their central heat and left town for a couple of days.
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’ve found out that your pipes have frozen, here are some things you can do that can save you time and money.
- The first step 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 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.
- If you are able to locate the frozen pipe and it’s accessible, you’re going to want to thaw it using mild heat. Do not use any open flame technique as this can cause the water to evaporate and build up pressure. A good tool to use would be a hair dryer or space heater.
- Pipes in your home will generally thaw out as the heat in your home begins to rise. Once 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. 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 pressure and temperature.
If you follow these prevention and protection tips you should be able to avoid any problems with frozen pipes. For more questions please 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.
Very helpful article, I liked how you pointed that adding insulation to your crawl spaces will prevent your pipes from freezing. This will surely prevent some repair jobs. Thanks!
Yes and thank your for your response!
It works very well for me
Your welcome Francesco!
You were doing a great job such an excellent article with creative tips. I am so thankful for you and your blog. Thanks for sharing such a informative post to us.
Your very welcome Blake! I’m glad I could be helpful.
You got me when you said that pipes outside a home with little to no insulation face a great danger of bursting after getting frozen during winter. In case that it does happen to a household, my suggestion is to avail a 24/7 plumbing installation service. For example, if my family is leaving for a Christmas vacation abroad and our pipes burst, hiring this service will ensure us that we will have running water once we get back.
I am glad that you mentioned how adding insulation to your crawl spaces will prevent your pipes from freezing during winter. I wouldn’t want to get a pipe busting out on me during the middle of winter, so I think I should go look for contractors that can set me up with the proper insulation to keep my pipes protected. This tip will surely help me avoid extra pipe repair jobs that could have otherwise been prevented. Thanks!
Your welcome Kit! Glad you found this advise helpful!
I’m glad it helped!
I enjoy the report
Thanks for the amazing write up. I have shared it on my facebook page.
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