Water Damage from Frozen Pipes?

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What to do when Pipes Freeze & How to Prevent It From Happening Again

When water freezes it expands. When the water in your home’s pipes freeze, the expansion creates pressure, which can lead to the pipe(s) cracking and breaking. The main causes for freezing pipes are quick temperature drops, a thermostat set too low, and insufficient insulation. To learn how to prevent pipes from freezing, it’s best to start with determining which pipes are more likely to freeze.

Pipes that Freeze

In general, the pipes that typically freeze during winter are the ones exposed to extreme cold. These may include any outdoor water pipes like water sprinkler lines and swimming pool supply lines. It also includes the water pipes located in unheated areas of the home. Pipes in unheated basements, attics, garages, crawl spaces and even under the kitchen or bathroom sink are at risk for freezing. If your home has pipes that run along exterior walls with insufficient or no insulation, these pipes also are at risk for freezing in winter.

How to Prevent Freezing Pipes

Before the cold hits, there are several things you can do to help prevent pipes from freezing.

  • Make sure the attic, basement, and crawl space are adequately insulated.
  • Seal any leaks in the attic, basement, or crawl space.
  • Seal leaking windows and any areas of the attached garage that have cold air leakage issues.
  • Wrap pipes at risk for freezing with heat tape. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations and only use products approved by an independent testing facility.
  • Use heat sleeves to insulate pipes if preferred.
  • Detach any garden hoses from outside faucets connected to the home. Shut off and drain the water from any pipes that lead to outside faucets, not in use for the winter season.
  • Sheets of foam board work well to insulate large areas, especially in crawl spaces or garages if the insulation only needs to be temporary for the season.

When the temperatures drop it’s time to take additional action for preventing pipes from freezing.

  • Maintain a consistent thermostat setting.

The Red Cross recommends keeping the thermostat set to the same temperature during the day and night to help maintain a consistent heat level and reduce the risk of freezing pipes.

  • Don’t drop the thermostat setting below 55-degrees Fahrenheit in cold weather.
  • Keep garage doors closed when not in use, especially if there are any water lines in the garage or on walls adjacent to the garage.
  • Let the water drip from a leaky faucet; even slow, even drips provide relief from pressure.
  • Leave cabinet doors open at kitchen and bathroom sinks during extreme cold spells to allow the home’s warm air to circulate around the pipe. Be sure to remove anything harmful to children and pets while the doors are open.

When Pipes Freeze

According to the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety,  37 percent of all frozen pipe failures happen in the basement. If you suspect a pipe is frozen and it hasn’t cracked, there’s a chance you can thaw it using the warm air from a hairdryer. Never use an open flame or blow torch as this is dangerous and a potential fire hazard.

Water damage often occurs when a pipe freezes and cracks. To minimize the damage, turn off the water at the main shutoff valve and call the professionals to extract dry and complete the cleanup. When it comes to the cleanup and what to do when pipes freeze, the experts at ServiceMaster 4U are there to help restore your home from water damage.