Frozen Pipes: How To Prevent Them & How To Deal When It Happens

Common Plumbing Problems, DIY, How-To, Seasonal, Water Pressure, Water Temperature,

Do You Know How To Prevent Frozen Pipes?

Winterizing your home during the winter months is the first step in prevention from unexpected freezing pipes. Winterization will help prepare your pipes from freezing, however, the best way to deal with freezing pipes is to stop them from occurring in the first place.

When it’s freezing outside the ice inside the pipes can freeze and keep water from flowing out your affected faucet. That can be inconvenient and troublesome.

But, it’s when your pipes thaw from the arctic freeze is when you must be most concerned. When this ice melts with variable temperatures, the pipe can begin to fluctuate in size due the changing volumes of liquid in the pipe, resulting in unwanted expansion, pipe cracks, leakage, or worse—a total pipe burst. The frozen water acts as a plug, preventing water from spilling out pipe cracks. When that plug thaws, water floods out.

It’s not so much when it’s frigid out that cause the big problems. Some frozen pipes don’t burst. But if one pipe does burst, it’s because water expands and shrinks when it freezes. This expansion and contraction causes significant pressure within the pipe structure. That pressure can cause a small leak at a connecter joint pivot. Or, pressure can cause a horizontal crack, the length of pipe, unleashing a tremendous water flow inside your home.

Preparation and planning is key, but if it happens and you find yourself stuck dealing with the mess, here are a few tips to avoid extensive damage. With average claim costs upwards of $5,000, water damage from bursting pipes is one of the most common homeowners insurance claims.

“It’s not the frozen pipes that really get plumbers’ phones ringing. It’s the thawing pipes that leak and spew water after a hard freeze.” Houselogic (Paul Adams, Roto-Rooter)

Frozen Pipe Prevention

Keep Pipes From Bursting

1. Act fast. This immediacy will minimize damage and repair costs.

2. Shut off your water supply to that plumbing section. (You may have to shut off your entire house if that’s your only option. Shutting off the main water supply will minimize basement flooding. Everyone in your family should be aware of where this main valve resides. The sooner it’s shut off, the less your costs will be. If your home has older gate valves, move them back and forth once a year to avoid the valves sticking.)

3. Thaw your frozen water pipes by wrapping them with warming tape (thermostatic control tape $50-$200, depending on length). Or, gradually apply heat from a hair dryer, heat lamp, or heat lamp. Never thaw your pipes with a propane torch as it can present a fire risk. (If you have no water flow or your toilets won’t refill after flushing your pipes may be frozen. If your pipe has extensive bulge, that’s another sign you have frozen lines. Some pipes become frost coated, but not all plumbing pipes are visible.)

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4. Be ready with a wet/dry vacuum, mop, buckets, sponges, and towels in case there’s a major plumbing leak. Minimize moisture related problems by running a dehumidifier to dry the space where the water leaked.

5. Call your trusted plumber professional for further instructions and valve inspections. It typically costs $200-$400 to have your valves replaced to a reliable ball valve. If your home is older, this valve replacement may be worth the money. Also, next time your plumber is onsite, it’s wise to discuss a plumbing plan in advance that will prevent further trouble.

6. Contact your insurance agent. Most homeowners insurance covers bursting pipes that result in water damage, so your insurance agent may be on your list of calls to make.

Frozen Pipe Prevention

There’s no good time for your water lines to freeze. However, if you plan to leave town for the holidays smack dab in the middle of the severe winter, your joyous holiday festivities could be rudely interrupted. Frozen pipes can also be detrimental to your time—and pocket book.

Frozen pipes can be caused by a weak system, or extreme snow and ice conditions. Whatever the cause of frozen pipes, it’s best to create an itemized fall checklist and winterize your home in advance. But, if the unthinkable does happen, grab the bull by the horns right away and deal with the problem before it gets worse.

Preventing frozen pipes requires careful plumbing planning. A solid plumbing plan is a good place to start. But, if your pipes freeze, it’s a smart idea to deal with it, and learn how to fix them, if it happens.

Need a trusted plumber in the Metro Detroit area to check your water line this winter? Consider WaterWork Plumbing! Call us today: 248-542-8022 to schedule an appointment.

Frozen Pipe Prevention