Frozen pipes are a homeowner’s nightmare. The resulting damage to your plumbing and home can be extensive, and many homeowners don’t realize that they could do little things to prevent their pipes from freezing in the first place. At Cates Heating and Cooling, our plumbers want all Kansas City area homeowners to be aware of everything they can do to prevent frozen pipes and what to do should their pipes freeze.
How Do You Know If Your Pipes Are Frozen?
Well, the most obvious answer is that you can see frost on the pipes. However, not every pipe in your home will be visible. So, what else should you look for? First, if there is no water flowing through your faucets, it might be time to start checking your pipes. Additionally, toilets won’t refill after a flush if your pipes are frozen, so watch your toilets, as well.
Problems with Frozen Pipes
Frozen pipes can cause a huge headache for homeowners. Frozen pipes are at high risk for bursting, which occurs when water expands as it freezes, and the pipes can’t withstand the pressure. The pressure can cause either a small leak or crack, which allows water to pour into your home, potentially causing thousands of dollars in damage.
It is important to remember that you are more likely to deal with damage to the pipe as your pipes thaw. This is because the fluctuation in size leaves the pipes vulnerable, and water damage will only be a problem after the water starts to thaw.
Homeowner’s insurance companies list water damage from bursting pipes as one of the most common claims they see. Most of these claims cost about $5,000.
How to Fix Frozen Pipes
To fix your frozen pipes, you need to thaw them. Here’s what you should do.
First, you should turn off the water to that section of the plumbing or the whole house. This will prevent any water from leaking out of the pipes. Frozen water could be acting as a plug, but as soon as that plug thaws, water could come gushing out of your pipes.
Next, you need to thaw the frozen sections of the pipe. You can do this using a heat source such as a space heater, heat lamp, or hairdryer. Some plumbers might recommend wrapping an electric heating pad around the pipe, but we don’t recommend this option because it is too tempting to leave the heating pad unattended. You can also use thermostatically controlled heat tape, which can quickly thaw a frozen part of piping. However, the tape is a little bit pricey.
Don’t use anything with an open flame, like a propane torch, which could pose a significant fire risk. Keep a bucket, mop, and towels nearby just in case there is any leaking.
Some homeowners don’t feel comfortable trying to thaw their pipes themselves. Fortunately, plumbers are trained to deal with frozen pipes. You can always call a plumber to thaw your pipes for you. If your pipe seems weak or appears to be cracked, you should call a plumber right away.
Frozen pipes that are located inside an exterior wall will require professional attention. Repairing these pipes might require cutting into a wall, leading to extensive damage if not done carefully.
What Should You Do If a Pipe Bursts?
In the unfortunate event that you experience a pipe burst, the first step you need to take is to shut off the main water supply. This will stop water from flowing out of the pipes. Once the water is off, you need to call a plumber. Explain the situation, and most plumbers will get someone out to your home right away to assess the situation and repair your busted pipes.
Once you have called the plumber, you will want to try to dry the area out. Using towels, mops, a wet/dry vacuum, and anything else you can find, soak up as much water as possible. Start running a dehumidifier in the space to prevent mold and mildew problems from arising. You want the space to be very dry, so fans might also be helpful.
You may also want to contact your insurance agent. Most homeowner’s insurance policies will cover burst pipes and any water damage that may follow.
How to Protect Your Pipes from Freezing
As cold weather approaches, you should start thinking about how you can protect your pipes from freezing. Here are a few of our favorite recommendations:
- Ensure your pool and water sprinkler supply lines are drained before the first freeze of the year.
- Drain and store all hoses that were used outdoors during the warmer months before the first freeze. You can also close inside valves that supply outdoor hose bibs after draining all the water out of them. Keep the outside valve open to allow any remaining water to escape.
- Keep attics, basements, and crawl spaces properly insulated.
- Consider relocating pipes exposed to freezing temperatures.
- Consider installing water pipe insulators prior to the first freeze of the season.
All of these measures should be taken as early as possible. These are the tips that will help you prevent your pipes from freezing before it ever gets cold enough for it to be possible.
Preventing Frozen Pipes During Winter
There are a few different ways to prevent frozen pipes when they are the most likely—during the cold winter months, including:
- If you will be away during cold weather, be sure to leave your heat at a temperature of at least 55°
- Keep your thermostat at the same temperature both day and night to prevent freezing and bursting pipes.
- During super cold weather, let the cold water drip from faucets served by exposed pipes. Allowing water to trickle through pipes prevents freezing.
- If you have water supply lines in the garage, keep your garage doors closed.
- Allow warm air to circulate around kitchen and bathroom plumbing by leaving cabinet doors open.
If you need a plumber to help you fix a burst pipe, contact Cates Heating and Cooling today. Kansas residents can call 913-914-2800, and Missouri residents can call 816-944-1844. We take emergency plumbing calls and will send out a plumber as soon as possible.