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Don't Get Stuck with Frozen Pipes this Winter Season

Updated: May 24, 2021

Posted on December 13, 2016 at 1:01 PM

Don't Get Stuck

with Frozen Pipes

this Winter

For many parts of the country, the holidays bring cold temperatures along with festive celebrations. Frozen pipes that burst and cause water damage can put a damper on holiday merriment and can cost thousands of dollars in repair as well as hours of your precious holiday vacation time. Here are a few tips that may help you avoid frozen pipes – and frustration – this winter:

When it gets really really cold, remember your plumbing pipes Plumbing pipes can freeze during times of extreme or prolonged cold temperatures. Thankfully, that doesn't happen very often here Charleston! But on the infrequent occasion when it does get really really cold here, you'll want to be alert and prepared.

Be prepared -- insulate your pipes Before cold weather hits, insulate your plumbing pipes when you have a chance. If you copper plumbing pipes, this material is more likely to freeze and then burst than other types of materials, like PEX or CPVC. If you have a newer home (say built in 2000 or newer) or if you've had plumbing repairs in recent years, you likely have PEX piping (distinguished by their red and blue color). If this is the first winter in your home, be sure to look in your home inspection report or in your crawlspace to see if your pipes are insulated. If you recently purchased a brand new house (2014 or newer), your plumbing pipes are already insulated. Pay close attention to pipes in outside walls (for those who live in downtown Charleston), garage, attic or crawlspaces. If you need to add insulation, ask your local hardware or home store professional for recommendations on the best materials for your needs.

When it does freeze outside, let faucets drip When temperatures drop to on or around freezing, be sure to let one or two faucets in your home drip to keep the water moving and to help prevent frozen pipes. A steady drip or small trickle is best. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), even if pipes freeze while trickling they will be less likely to burst from the pressure because they are open. Also, pay attention if you notice that water pressure in any of your faucets begins to decrease during the winter. Low water pressure might be an early sign that the pipes are beginning to freeze.

Open Cabinet Doors During really cold temps, be sure to open cabinet doors where your plumbing pipes are located to increase the flow of warm air. This includes the cabinets under the kitchen sink, bathroom sinks, laundry room sinks and wet bar sinks.

Outside Water Facuets Outside water faucets are especially susceptible to freezing. Always unhook water hoses and store them for the winter. Consider covering the faucets with insulated sleeves or jackets that you can find at hardware and home improvement stores.

**Don't forget to winterize automatic sprinkler systems and pool lines and pipes.

Home Temperature While it’s always smart to be energy efficient with your heating practices, don’t make the mistake of turning your home’s temperature down so far that you put your pipes in jeopardy. Keep your home’s thermostat set at 55 degrees or above in the winter, even if you’re away from home. If you're away for several days during extreme cold, ask a trusted person to check on your home and pipes while you’re gone.

Water Shutoff Valves Know where your water shutoff valves are located so that in case a pipe bursts you can stop the water flow as quickly as possible. In an emergency situation in which water is gushing out, you don’t want to waste time searching for the correct valve.

Keep Garage Door Closed In the winter, it’s a good idea to keep your garage closed when you’re not moving a car in or out to increase warmth. Make it a habit to close the garage door when you enter or exit to preserve heat and save on energy use. This will also help protect any pipes that may run through the garage area.

What to do if your pipes freeze? The most common indicator of a frozen pipe is that a faucet won’t flow or a toilet won’t flush, but pipes can also be frozen without those indications too. If you have one or more pipes which freeze, proceed very carefully because it's actually when a pipe thaws that it usually bursts. Thawing a pipe too quickly can cause more harm than good. While you may have success thawing a frozen pipe slowly with a hair dryer, a heat lamp, hot towels, or electric heat tape, it’s probably safest to call a qualified plumber or repair professional for help. Never attempt to thaw a frozen pipe with a blowtorch or any other tool that has a flame, which can be very dangerous.

Check your homeowner’s insurance to find out what kind of coverage you have in the event of water damage from broken pipes (and the amount of any deductible). Know in advance what steps you’ll need to take to provide proof of damage, obtain an estimate and file a claim.

If your home sustains water damage from a broken pipe, it’s important to get a qualified restoration professional to the site as soon as possible to categorize the type of water and begin appropriate clean-up steps. It’s important to start water mitigation as soon as possible to maximize structural drying and dehumidification to minimize damage. Letting the water sit will likely only complicate and possibly prolong the restoration process. Many disaster restoration professionals offer 24-hour emergency services so they can respond to water damage situations quickly.

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