How to Prevent Frozen or Burst Pipes This Winter
With winter weather just around the corner, it’s critical for Paw Paw homeowners to understand the risks and dangers of frozen or burst water pipes. According to the website CostHelper, the average cost to repair a burst water pipe can be $900 with other water damage repairs added on top of that amount.
Our Field Plumbing & Heating team would like to arm you with all the information you need to understand this common issue, take the necessary precautions against frozen pipes, and know what to do in the case of burst pipes.
How Do Pipes Freeze and What Happens?
Because water expands when it freezes, frozen water pipes can burst from the added pressure. The water pipes most at risk in your MI home are those that are uninsulated and located along exterior walls and in attics, basements, crawl spaces, and kitchen cabinets.
Outside water pipes such as those connecting outdoor hoses, sprinkler systems, irrigation systems, or swimming pools are also at risk if they are left undrained before the winter hits.
The older your water pipes, the more likely the frozen water will cause significant problems and damage. In addition, many modern homes have complicated plumbing systems, which may mean a burst pipe can cause catastrophic damage.
As much as four to eight gallons of water can flow from just one burst pipe every minute, causing thousands of dollars in damages in less than an hour. This could result in an uninhabitable home or office space for weeks.
By taking a few simple prevention steps before winter arrives, you can drastically reduce the likelihood of frozen or burst water pipes. Take the following precautions seriously:
• Follow the manufacturers’ recommendations to drain the water from your swimming pool and sprinkler lines.
• Disconnect and drain all outdoor hoses. Cut the water supply to these hoses and leave the valve outside open so any remaining water can drain. Consider using an insulator on spigots.
• Insulate any water lines that are exposed and at risk for freezing.
• Insulate your hot water tank.
• Know where the main shutoff in your home is and how to operate it.
• Keep your garage door closed if water lines are located there.
• Open your kitchen and bathroom cupboards to allow warm air to circulate around the pipes on particularly cold days.
• Allow a small trick of room-temperature water to run from the faucets, especially during the night when it’s colder.
• Keep your home’s heat set at no lower than 55 degrees.
• If you will be out of town for an extended period of time, drain the water system by turning off the water supply and running all fixtures until no more water runs.
Even after taking precautions, frozen pipes may still occur. As a homeowner, be aware of some basic warning signs indicating you might have a frozen water pipe.
For example, if your water flow is markedly decreased or stopped at a particular fixture, you may have frozen water somewhere in your system. In some cases, a frozen pipe may cause a leak before a full-blown burst happens. Keep an eye out for damp patches on your walls or ceilings.
If you suspect a pipe is frozen, keep that faucet open. As the frozen area starts melting, water will flow again and will help melt the ice in the pipe. You can also wrap towels soaked in hot water around the pipes to help defrost them.
A heating pad, hair dryer, or space heater may warm an area with a potentially frozen pipe. However, you need to be very careful with electrical devices near water sources as well as take precaution against fire. Frozen pipes near electrical outlets should be left to a professional plumber.
After a Pipe Bursts
If you find yourself with an actual burst water pipe, you’ll want to move as quickly as possible to minimize damage. First, shut off the water supply to your house. You’ll want to know where this valve is before an emergency occurs.
Shut off all electric appliances that are near the water flow, and move your possessions out of harm’s way. Use buckets if possible to catch and collect as much water as possible. In the meantime, use your kitchen and bathroom fixtures to drain other water in your plumbing system through working drains.
Once you have the immediate situation under control, call a professional to repair your pipes. Be sure to take pictures and record your damages before calling your insurance company.