Extreme cold can present challenges for homeowners, property owners, and managers. If you live in an area where the winter months have severe low temperatures or your power goes out during freezing temperatures, you run the risk of the pipes freezing in your home. The best way to deal with this is to prevent it from happening in the first place, and learn what to do if a pipe freezes.
While taking precautions can reduce the risk of frozen pipes, sometimes the inevitable will happen. If your pipes do freeze, it is best not to panic and to instead act quickly to minimize the damage and cost of repairs. If you act fast, you may be able to thaw your frozen pipes before they burst.
The average cost to repair a burst pipe is $500 but can be anywhere from $200 to $1,000. While this amount covers the cost of fixing the pipe, it doesn’t include the cost of other water damage or loss, which can occur when a pipe bursts. In total, you may be looking at $5,000 in repairs due to water damage. To learn how to prevent your pipes from freezing, continue reading.
What causes freezing pipes to burst
As water freezes, it expands, which puts a lot of pressure on whatever is holding it, such as the pipes that run throughout your home. The pressure from the water can lead to leaks, cracks, or worse, a bursting pipe. The most common pipes to freeze are those that are outside and exposed to the cold, such as swimming pool supply lines and water sprinklers.
Pipes inside of the home can be exposed to the cold as well. This includes pipes that run against exterior walls and those found in basements, crawl spaces, attics, garages, and underneath kitchen cabinets.
Other common reasons for a pipe to burst may be ground movement, corrosion and decaying, age of pipes, clogs, incorrect pipework, and improper connections.
How to identify if a pipe freezes
There are many signs that your pipes have frozen. Being aware of these signs will help you take proper action, whether that means thawing them yourself or calling a plumber.
Signs your pipes have frozen:
- There is no water coming from your faucet
- A drop in water pressure
- Condensation or frost on the pipes
- A strong sewer smell in your home
- Unusual sounds (gurgling, rattling, and banging)
- A cracked pipe
Will frozen pipes thaw on their own?
In theory, pipes will eventually thaw on their own when the temperatures rise, but tremendous damage could occur before that happens. You should care for your frozen pipes immediately to protect your belongings, home, and wallet.
While you can try to thaw the pipes yourself, some techniques can be dangerous and cause more damage than good. Always be sure to do your research or speak with a professional first.
Some non-dangerous methods you may try are as simple as turning on your faucet, pouring hot water down the drain, opening cabinet doors, wrapping your pipes in hot wet towels and electrical heating tape.
How long does it take for pipes to unfreeze?
The time it takes to thaw a frozen pipe varies from 20 minutes to many hours. There is no way to guarantee how long it may take to unfreeze your pipes. It depends on several things, such as how frozen they are and whether they are made of metal or PVC. Metal pipes take longer to unfreeze than PVC pipes.
A plumber can fix the problem in no time
While you may not want to call a plumber, there are times when it is in your best interest to let the professionals handle the situation. If you cannot find or get to the frozen pipe on your own, you will need help, as it would not be wise to start cutting into your walls. You will also need a plumber if you see any cracked pipes.
Even with all of your best efforts, professionals have quality thawing equipment such as thaw machines that will get the job done safely and promptly. This can ultimately save you time and money. A thaw machine is a portable device that sends low-voltage, high-currency electricity through the pipe. Plumbers often use these because they can quickly thaw sections of ice up to 175 feet long.
Tips to keep pipes from freezing
When winter sets in and the temperatures begin to decrease, you can follow these tips to prevent your pipes from freezing:
- Let your faucets drip during cold spells
- Open bathroom and kitchen cabinet doors
- Keep garage doors closed
- Keep interior doors open
- Keep the thermostat at the same temperature day and night
- Set your thermostat to 50 degrees Fahrenheit or more when you are going out of town
- Drain water from swimming pool supply lines
- Add insulation to basements, attics, and crawl spaces
- Install pipe sleeves, heat tape, or heat cable
- Seal any leaks around pipes that could be bringing in cold air
- Seal cracks and holes
- Tend to drafty foundation
Homeowner policies to protect against the unexpected
Even after careful preparation and following prevention tips, the unexpected can still occur. It is best to be prepared in all the possible ways, meaning purchasing a homeowners insurance policy if you don’t have one already.
A homeowners policy will guarantee that you are covered if your pipe bursts and water damage occurs. Instead of paying out of pocket, your insurance will help protect your finances, belongings, and the cost of alternative living arrangements.
To learn more about your existing policy or obtaining a new policy and what type of coverage you will receive, schedule a virtual appointment with us for a free full risk assessment.