Extreme cold weather can wreak havoc on your home, and damage from frozen pipes can leave you and your family without running water. When frozen water pipes are a problem, here are some repair options, tips and more advice from our trusted Home Matters home repair experts.
If you live somewhere that doesn't regularly freeze, keeping water pipes from freezing may seem like a waste of time and money. But unusually cold weather can hit almost anywhere in the country, and if you’re not properly prepared, even one freeze could cost you a fortune. But all is not lost: here’s everything you need to keep things flowing smoothly, along with advice about what to do when the worst happens.
First, it’s important to understand that water expands when frozen. This can be pretty bad news for your pipes in freezing weather, but that’s not to say that burst pipes can’t be prevented. In fact, taking preventative measures only takes a few minutes. Minutes that prove an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure.
How to Unfreeze Frozen Pipes
1. Check severity of problem. If you suspect a frozen pipe, first check to see how widespread the problem is by turning on and off all the faucets in your home. If the problem exists with more than just one pipe, open all faucets, turn off the main water to the house and call a professional.
2. Open frozen faucet and let all others drip. If only one pipe is frozen, leave the others dripping while also turning on the frozen faucet to help get water moving once it thaws. Be sure to locate your nearest water shut-off valve in case you discover a break once the water has begun to flow.
3. Get a hair dryer. Now, it’s time to bring out the hair dryer. Before you plug it in, make sure there is absolutely NO water or leaks in the area you intend to use it, as this could be an electrical hazard. Also, be sure to unplug the hair dryer and shut off all water to the house if a leak appears during the thawing process.
4. Identify frozen area of pipe. Next, find where the pipe has frozen and use the hair dryer to warm the pipe starting at the faucet and working your way backward until you reach the frozen section.
5. Warm frozen area of pipe with hair dyer. Continue warming the pipe until full water pressure returns to the open faucet.
6. Leave faucet dripping. Once everything has returned to normal, leave the faucet dripping until the freezing temperatures have passed.
7. If still frozen, shut off main water supply and call a professional. If it turns out that you cannot reach the frozen pipe in order to warm it, shut off the main water supply to the pipe, keep the faucet open and call a plumber. This will help ensure that you don’t later find out you had a burst pipe that leaked into the walls, putting you at risk for mold, rot and other far more expensive problems.
How to Prevent Freezing Pipes
• Pay attention to daily and weekly weather forecasts so you’re never caught off guard.
• Before any freeze, unhook all of your water hoses, drain and store them.
• Cover all outdoor spigots with insulated sleeves that can be found at most hardware stores.
• Use an insulated sleeve to cover any other exterior water pipes, like sprinkler systems and swimming pool supply lines.
• Inspect pipes in your attic, basement and crawl spaces, and make sure they’re covered with insulated pipe sleeves.
• Walk around the perimeter of your home looking for exposed vents, then cover them with foam board insulation and seal any air leaks with caulk.
• When temperatures drop below freezing, if possible, drip water from all your faucets and open cabinet doors around the kitchen, bathroom, laundry room and wet bar.
• Keep your garage door closed and, if possible, keep your thermostat set above 55 degrees any time you leave your home.
• Familiarize yourself with where your home’s main water shut-off valve is so you can stop the flow of water right away in the case of an emergency. Here’s how to locate your water shut-off valve.
As you can see, without the right precautionary measures, you could be in for a load of trouble. But that goes for much more than just frozen pipes.
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