January 17, 2022

Avoid Frozen and Burst Pipes This Winter

You endure a night of sub-zero temperature but the morning after, water isn’t coming out of the faucet. Frozen pipes can be a real annoyance.

Avoid Frozen and Burst Pipes This Winter
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You endure a night of sub-zero temperature but the morning after, water isn’t coming out of the faucet.

Frozen pipes can be a real annoyance.

The cold season is already here, and it’s time you start prepping to prevent pipes from freezing. Because trust us, frozen pipelines can cause a lot more problems than robbing you of your morning bath.

This article has many simple ideas to prevent frozen pipes. Also, you will find actionable tips to thaw the pipes that are not working after last night’s cold spell. And lastly, we will talk about what to do if your frozen pipes have burst.

Why Are Frozen Pipes A Problem?

Generally, pipes freeze when temperatures are below 20 degrees Fahrenheit for six or more consecutive hours. When pipes freeze, water becomes inaccessible from the affected faucets, and things will remain the same – until the temperature rises again or you thaw the pipe with DIY methods or call a plumber.

When freezing temperatures persist, pipes run a risk of bursting. If the pressure building up in pipes due to the expansion of liquid water into ice is not released somehow, it can rupture the pipe. And when water circulation eventually gets restored, the room can flood.

At the very least, you will notice the water leaking through the pipe and get it repaired. At worst, the burst might be too small to notice, and your water bills can gradually rise, and you will eventually spot signs of water damage, such as mold growth.

If you ever find yourself in the tricky situation of water damage or mold infestation, you can call RainFire Restoration to help you get it fixed.

How To Prevent Pipes From Freezing

1. Let The Faucet Drip

This is the easiest step you can take to delay, if not outright prevent pipes from freezing. A dripping faucet keeps the water moving, preventing it from freezing.

However, if the temperature drops even further, it's inevitable for the water to freeze. In this case, the slightly turned-on faucet will release the pressure and allow the ice to expand axially rather than radially, saving the pipe from bursting.

2. Use Heat Tape

Imagine that you look at the weather forecast and it warns you of an approaching cold snap. You only have a few days to prepare. What do you do?

One great solution is installing heat tape around vulnerable pipes. Heat tape looks like electrical tape and works when plugged into an outlet.

Follow the manufacturer's instructions to set up the heat tape. For maximum effectiveness, install the heat tapes before the temperature plummets. The heat tape maintains a steady temperature, increasing or decreasing its heat power output in response to the ambient temperature.

We strongly advise against doing a rush job. Caution is needed to prevent it from coming into contact with flammable material.

3. Seal Crawl Spaces

Crawl spaces allow the transfer of cold from the environment to the pipes. As such, seal the crawl space with thermal barriers if you anticipate a bitter winter.

Use thermal barriers to encapsulate the crawl space. You can insert foam cuttings in the vents to seal off the space completely.

4. Keep Thermostat Consistent

Acute temperature fluctuations can weaken the pipe's structure. Materials expand in warm temperatures and contract in cold temperatures.

People lower their thermostats in the evenings or while they are out to save energy costs - which is okay. However, turning off the thermostat or setting it too low can cause the pipes to contract and expand frequently. Over time, the pipes lose their integrity due to rapid molecular size fluctuations and give way when they freeze.

If you are going out for several days, leave the heat on.

5. Stop Drafts

Drafts can enter your home through holes and cracks and cause the pipe to freeze. That’s why you should look for cracks, crevices, and cable holes and seal them. As a bonus, you will also bug-proof your house by sealing off those small entryways for cockroaches, flies, mosquitoes, etc.

6. Remove Hose from Faucets

Don't forget the faucets installed outside your home. Disconnect any hoses from the spigot to prevent them from freezing.

Hoses are at a greater risk of freezing, and when they do freeze, they put the pipe to which the faucet is attached at the risk of freezing and bursting.

7. Insulate the Pipes

Look for exposed pipes throughout your house. Check the basement, attic, crawl space, basement, under the cabinet, and add insulation around the exposed pipework.

You can buy pipe insulation at your nearest plumbing store and install it yourself.

Additionally, insulating hot water pipes can save energy costs by keeping water warmer for longer.

How to Thaw a Frozen Pipe and Prevent Bursting

Despite all the precautions, if nature decides to freeze the pipework in your home, your next concern should be to prevent the pipes from bursting. If you find a frozen pipe, turn off the main water supply AND THEN thaw the pipe.

Turning off the main supply will reduce the chances of water damage to your house due to a burst pipe.

When you suspect a pipe freeze, check for areas where the pipe is exposed to the environment.

To thaw a pipe, you need a heat source that doesn’t rely on a flame to transfer heat. Fire can damage pipes and heighten the risk of bursting.

You can use a hairdryer, portable space heater, heating pad, or heating tape to warm up the pipe. If none of this is available, you can wrap a cloth or a towel soaked in warm water around the pipe.

When the pipe thaws, pressure will build inside. Open the faucet to let the pressure escape.

If none of this works or you can’t locate the frozen pipe, call the plumber.

What to do When a Pipe has Burst

In the worst-case scenario, a pipe can burst, even without you knowing about it. When you see the wall getting damp or the water pooling on the floor, it’s time for action.

Shut off the main valve and call the plumber. Meanwhile, start drying the place to prevent water damage.

1. Use Water Pipe Epoxy

Hopefully, you are reading this article before anything unfortunate has occurred. We want to advise you to store some water pipe epoxy so that you don't have to go looking for it in the cold weather when a pipe bursts. You can use it to seal the rupture temporarily until help arrives.

2. Pipe wraps and plumbing repair tapes

Pipe wraps and tape are cheap solutions for fixing a burst pipe temporarily. You can buy them at hardware stores. Wrap them tightly around the pipes, and you are good to go for another day or two in case you have to wait for the plumber.

3. Clamp, wood, and rubber

If the above products are unavailable, you can place a piece of rubber on the rupture, cover it with woodblock, and hold it together with a clamp.

Does Your Insurance Cover Burst Pipes?

Generally, most insurance plans cover the cost of burst pipe repair and water damage restoration. File a claim if the accident was unforeseeable.

However, if the pipe burst due to negligence, i.e., it was already leaking or deteriorating, the insurance company can deny your claim.

Some policies cover the damage resulting from a burst pipe, such as damaged furniture, carpet, drywall, paint, etc., and mold growth prevention.

Burst Pipes Cause Water Damage

1. Structural Damage

Water damage from pipes can seep into the walls, floors, and ceilings and weaken their structure. Water damage speeds up the corrosion of metal structures in buildings, damages wooden structures and furniture, and can short electrical circuits. Not to mention the damage it can cause to your valuable property and belongings.

2. Dampness

Pipe leaks behind walls remain inconspicuous until a patch occurs on the wall, or you notice a strange smell lingering in the room 24x7.

Apart from making you feel constantly uncomfortable, damp walls can introduce a graver problem...

3. Mold Growth

Mold spores are ever-present in the air. Water damage, dampness, and mold growth go hand-in-hand. Mold spores can start budding within 24-48 hours of water saturation. It can spread rapidly within the drywall and affect the air quality, triggering allergic reactions in sensitive people.

What to do in case of Extensive Water Damage from Burst Pipes?

Pipe bursts can wreak havoc if the residents spot it too late. A family returning after a long vacation, a pipe burst in an unfrequented basement, or an internal pipe leak… whatever the reason, if you find yourself in knee-deep trouble, shut off the water and then analyze the situation.

Extricate as many belongings as you can, and dry the place if possible. Contact a water damage restoration company as they can help you contain the damage, restore the value of your property, and prevent mold infestation.  

Rainfire Restoration provides water damage restoration in Utah. We have a 24-hour emergency crew available any day of the week. No matter the extent of water damage, we will help you maneuver through this tricky situation and restore things as quickly as possible. Contact us for water damage restoration.