There is nothing worse than coming home to a house that is flooded with water—except not knowing why it is flooded in the first place. If you’re away at work for the day or happen to be on vacation and return to a house full of water, it’s possible that your pipes may have burst after being exposed to freezing temperatures.
The average cost of water damage restoration could run between $1,304 and $5,515. However, it could cost even more when you take into consideration other repairs that may arise from the damage, including the pipes themselves, flooring, walls, and more. To minimize surprises from pipes bursting in your home on a very cold day, here are some preventative measures to keep your pipes from freezing.
Why Do Pipes Freeze?
Before covering ways to prevent freezing pipes, it helps to understand why pipes freeze. The main reason is exposure to temperatures lower than 55 degrees for an extended period of time. Since water expands when it’s frozen, the trapped water puts pressure on the pipe and this leads to a crack forming. Once the ice thaws, this is when the possibility of bursting arises.
What Happens When Pipes Freeze?
Frozen pipes will obstruct water from entering your home. Not only is it important to keep water flowing in your house, but it also will prevent costly damages. So you must do all you can to keep your pipes from freezing.
Prep Pipes for Cold Temperatures
There are several steps you can take to make the pipes in your home more resistant to freezing.
- Insulate pipes that are located along exterior walls or in unheated areas, typically attics, basements, or crawl spaces. Foam pipe insulation sleeves are relatively inexpensive and easy to install.
- Every winter, disconnect and drain garden hoses. And if there are cut-off valves on outdoor faucets, make sure they are closed and drained. You can add a faucet cover for extra security.
- Using expanding foam or caulk, seal cracks in walls or floors near pipes that could allow cold air in from the outside.
- Wrap heat tape or a heat cable around pipes located in areas that may be likely to freeze.
- If upgrading your plumbing, try to install PEX piping, which is more resistant to freezing that most other types, notably copper.
- Consider relocating pipes if they are in a location that is vulnerable to freezing.
Tips for Preventing Pipes from Freezing
Keep an eye on weather reports to know if extreme temperatures are expected—typically around 20 degrees F is when you should take precautions.
- Turn on at least one faucet so it releases a slow drip so cold water is constantly flowing through the pipes.
- Leave kitchen and bathroom cabinets open to allow the warmer air from inside the house to circulate around the pipes.
- Maintain the same temperature inside your house day and night at above 55 degrees F.
- If you know there’s a place where your pipes are at risk of freezing, you can add a space heater to warm up the room. Just make sure to not leave it unsupervised.
- Even if you are away from your home for vacation, keep your heat on to avoid frozen pipes. If you have a smart thermostat, make sure to monitor the temperature or have a neighbor or family member check the temperature of your house.
Despite all your best efforts to prevent frozen pipes, there’s still a chance it could happen. Here are some things you can do if your pipes freeze or burst.
What should I do if I suspect my pipes have frozen?
If your water doesn’t run or you only get a trickle when you turn it on, a pipe is likely frozen. It’s wise to contact a licensed plumber. A professional may be able to take steps to help avoid damages that could cost upwards of $5,000 or more if your pipes burst.
Can I use heat to help thaw pipes?
You can inspect your water supply lines to check for any particularly cold areas to try and locate the ice blockage. If the pipe is exposed you can use heat to thaw it, however, be mindful of the type of heat you apply to your pipes.
You may use an electric heating pad, a hair dryer, or a space heater to help thaw pipes (being careful to steer clear of any flammable materials and avoid standing in water) in the section where there is a blockage. But you should always avoid using an open flame. Apply heat until full water pressure returns.
Be sure to check all faucets in the house—if one pipe freezes, others may freeze, too. Be mindful that if the pipe has already burst, water may flood the house as the water thaws. If the pipe blockage is an inaccessible area, you need to contact a plumber for assistance.
If my pipes happen to burst, what’s the first thing I should do?
It’s important to turn water off at the main shutoff valve, usually located at the water meter or where the main line enters the house. This will keep water from causing unnecessary damages in your home where the pipe has burst. It is a good idea to familiarize yourself with where the main shut-off valve is in your home. Then proceed with calling a plumber.
Looking for more help with repairs around your home? A home warranty may help. Check out these in-depth guides from the This Old House Reviews Team:
- Best home warranty companies
- American Home Shield reviews
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