Take Action to Prevent Damage from Frozen Water Pipes


The extreme weather can be tough on all of us—even and especially our homes. One of the damaging impacts of cold temperatures is the chance that a water pipe will freeze and burst. In order to lessen the chance of your pipes freezing this winter, take the following preventative steps.

Before Winter Begins

  • Turn off water to outside faucets. Open the outside faucets to let them completely drain.
  • If you have a sprinkler system, turn it off. Blowing compressed air through the lines will help drain the lines and prevent these pipes from bursting.
  • Disconnect and drain your garden hoses.
  • Insulate pipes under the house with foam pipe insulation.
  • Make sure you know where your water main cut-off valve is (it is often by your water meter). Keep your shut-off key handy in case of an emergency.

When the Temperature Plunges Below Freezing

  • Keep your garage doors closed.
  • Keep all interior doors open to allow heated air to flow through your home.
  • Keep the cabinet doors under sinks open.
  • Drip faucets in your kitchen and bathrooms.
  • If the line running to your icemaker runs under your home, power it on to make ice.
  • Keep the heat on to at least 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • If you’re planning to go away for longer than a day, ask a trusted person to check on your house periodically.

If a Pipe Is Frozen

  1. Determine which pipe or pipes are frozen. Turn on each faucet. If there only a trickle or no water comes out, the pipe leading to that faucet is probably frozen. But don’t stop when you have located one possible freeze; there is a chance that others have frozen, too. Frozen portions of exposed pipes are sometimes easily visible: they often have frost on them or may bulge with the frozen water inside.
  2. Open the faucet leading to the frozen pipe before attempting to thaw it. Open both the hot and cold handles to relieve the pressure in the system.
  3. Begin the thawing process near the faucet first; then work down to where the blockage is. This makes it possible for the melting ice and steam to escape through the faucet instead of creating more pressure in the pipe. The more pressure that exists in the pipe, the more likely it is to burst.

Key Considerations When Thawing Frozen Pipes

  • Thawing exposed pipes. If you can access the section of the pipe that is frozen, you have several options for applying heat to it to freeze it: try a hairdryer, portable space heater, heat lamp, hot towels, and/or electrical heating tape.
  • Thawing enclosed pipes. If you can’t access the frozen pipe, you can try to thaw the pipe by turning up the heat in your home. If this doesn’t work, you can place an infrared lamp in front of the area of the wall behind which the frozen section of pipe is located. The lamp’s heat may be able to reach and thaw the pipe. A method of last resort, if you are comfortable doing this, is to cut out the section of drywall enclosing the frozen section of pipe so you can access the blocked portion and then use one of the methods listed earlier. Please call a professional if this step is outside your comfort zone. Never try to thaw a pipe with an open flame. This can damage the pipe and, even worse, start a fire.

If a Pipe Bursts

  • Shut off the main water line immediately in order to prevent damage due to water flowing from the pipe.
  • Call a plumber or other professional immediately.
  • Dry and repair water damage resulting from the burst pipe as soon as possible in order to minimize future mold problems and other issues.
  • Call your insurance professional. Determine what your insurance policy covers, and become familiar with the claims filing process.
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