Frozen pipes can be a homeowner’s worst nightmare – coming home after a long vacation only to find your kitchen, bathroom, basement or entire home flooded! Nobody likes having all your appliances destroyed, carpet ruined, short circuited electronics, or God forbid, angry downstairs neighbors.
So, here’s the easy explanation to why this disaster is looming like a mean school yard bully. If water fills a pipe completely (which, if you have good plumbing, it should), it takes up slightly more than the pipe if it becomes ice. Anywhere along the pipe that this happens will lead to a split or burst pipe. BUMMER!
What you need now is to train yourself to spot the warning signs that your pipes may be partially frozen, or on their way to freezing completely. Once the process starts, it’s usually a short amount of time before you have a frozen pipe on your hands, quickly followed by a burst pipe, which then turns into a flood. And then… ugh!
A drop in water pressure is usually the first warning sign. If the flow from one of your pipes (hot or cold) slows down, call your plumber immediately, before you have a plumbing emergency. Your plumber will probably tell you to shut off the water until he arrives, which will help prevent a burst, even if the pipe does freeze. Whatever you do, do not attempt to apply direct heat yourself. Intense heat applied directly to the frozen section can turn the ice directly to steam, which can explode in your pipes. The whole thing sounds just awful, doesn’t it?
If the frozen section of the water pipe is discovered in time, and adequately thawed (either yourself, or in more serious cases, with the help of a plumber), damage may be averted. The best plan, however, is to protect water pipes from freezing in the first place.
The following are a few freeze prevention techniques that can be done by the homeowner himself, or with the assistance of a plumber:
- Do a thorough check of your house to determine which pipes are most vulnerable to freezing. These will be those that are not insulated, closed to outside walls and windows, and those running through an unheated space, such as an attic, basement, garage, or crawl space.
- Open all faucets corresponding to vulnerable pipes and let them drip slightly, maintaining a constant drip. This will help provide relieve from the pressure that develops between the ice blockage and the faucet when freezing occurs. Even if the dripping stops, you should still eave the faucet(s) open, since a pipe may now be frozen and pressure relief will still be required.
- Holes and cracks in outside walls and in the foundation of your home, which are located near to any water pipes, should be caulked to keep cold air from reaching the pipes.
- Kitchen and cabinet doors should be kept open to allow warm air to circulate inside and around the pipes.
- Vulnerable and accessible pipes should be fitted with insulation sleeves or wrapping, making sure not to leave gaps exposing the pipe to cold air. Hardware stores generally carry the necessary materials in the form of fiberglass or foam rubber sleeves. When purchasing a pipe sleeve, ones with extra-thick insulation are worth the extra cost.
- Electric heating tape may be used to keep especially vulnerable pipes from freezing. Such tape, however, must be used with extreme caution and in accordance with all manufacturer’s specifications to avoid the risk of fire.
- Maintain a constant leaving of heating in your house even when no one is home.
What it all boils down to is this…. you can make like a Cub Scout and “Be Prepared” or you can ruin everyone’s holiday by handing out buckets and shop vacs as gifts.
The choice, of course, is yours.
Here’s to a DRY indoor winter!
The Adler Home Team
originally posted Active Rain – The Adler Home Team