When outside temperatures dip below freezing, the pipes in your home are at risk of freezing and bursting. In fact, pipe bursts are one of the leading causes of winter water damage in Albany NY. And the northeast isn’t the only region affected.
Contrary to what you might expect, homes in southern climates are often more susceptible to pipes freezing. Unlike in the northeast, where the pipes are located inside the building insulation to protect against frigid temps, the pipes in places like Tampa FL are more likely to be found in unprotected areas outside the building insulation. So, when a cold snap does hit, the pipes are more vulnerable.
The pipes most at risk are those in uninsulated or unheated spaces, such as attics, garages, crawl spaces, and even outside walls. This is especially true if there are cracks or holes that allow outside air and wind to come into contact with pipes, or if the temperature inside your home drops too low.
Steps to Prevent Pipes from Bursting & Causing Water Damage
Fortunately, there are several simple steps you can take as a homeowner to prevent pipes from freezing, bursting, and causing thousands of dollars in water damage.
Set the Thermostat When Away
When away from your home for an extended period, be careful how much you lower the heat. Experts recommend setting the thermostat to a temperature no lower than 55 degrees F to protect pipes in the event that a cold spell strikes while you are gone.
You can install pipe insulation or heat tape to protect vulnerable pipes. Most local hardware stores and home centers carry foam rubber or fiberglass sleeves, or you can pick up extra-thick insulation from a plumbing supply store. Just make sure not to leave any gaps.
Keep Garage Doors Closed
Every time the garage is opened it exposes any local water supply lines to a blast of cold air, so try to open the garage door as little as possible during extremely cold weather. This is especially important if you have finished living space above the garage.
Open Cabinet Doors
The cabinets in your kitchen and bathroom are usually not heated, so pipes under sinks can be susceptible to freezing, especially if they are located on an exterior wall. By leaving cabinet doors open, warmer air from inside your house can circulate around the plumbing.
Allow Faucets to Drip
If it is extremely cold outside, running water from the faucet, even at a trickle, can help protect vulnerable pipes. Water can still freeze inside the pipe, but opening the faucet will provide relief from the pressure and prevent bursting. Since a dripping faucet does waste water, only leave the water flowing in pipes that run through an unheated or unprotected space.
Seal Cracks & Add Insulation
Insulating attics, basements, garages and crawl spaces will help maintain the temperature in these areas, and even lower your heating bills. To prevent drafts, seal openings around windows and doors, and use sill plates where the foundation has settled.
What to Do if You Suspect a Frozen Pipe
If you turn on a faucet and water does not come out, you may have a frozen pipe. However, you’ll want to be careful when thawing it out. If the pipe has already burst, the water can come flowing out and flood your home. Your best bet is to turn off the water at the main shutoff valve, which is usually at the water meter or where the main line enters the house.
To thaw a frozen pipe, leave the faucet open until the problem is rectified, and, if you are able to locate the section of pipe that is frozen, you can attempt to heat it. Apply heat with a hair dryer, or by wrapping the pipe in a heating pad or towels soaked in hot water, starting at the end of the pipe closest to the faucet, and working toward the coldest section. For your safety, do not use any electric appliances while standing in water, or any kind of blow torch or open flame, as it can damage the pipes and start a fire.
What to Do If a Water Pipe Bursts
If you suffer water damage as a result of a burst pipe, call a water damage clean up and restoration professional as soon as possible. It can be difficult to determine the extent of damage just by looking at it, and the longer you wait, the more likely the chance for unseen moisture to cause structural damage and mold growth.
For 24/7 emergency water damage clean up in Albany NY, Worcester MA, Tampa FL and Media PA, call 877-MACFAWN. Our water damage professionals use industry-accepted, commercial-grade water pumps, fans and dehumidifiers to restore the space to a healthy, stable condition, and offer full reconstruction services to repair and rebuild.