Oh, No! Your Pipes Froze and Burst, Now What?
When the weather turns frigid, you might not be the only one in your home that is affected. If the plumbing in your home is older or not insulated well, a cold snap can cause the water in them to freeze. Once water freezes, it expands. Weakened metal or plastic pipes can have a hard time managing the expanding water. When it gets to be too much, frozen water can cause the pipe to burst or crack.
The key to saving the day when you pipes freeze and burst is acting quickly. So what do you do?
Turn off the water. Find the home’s main water valve and turn it off. Part of your home safety precautions should include making sure everyone in the family knows where the main shutoffs are for both water and electricity. If you live in an apartment and don’t have access to the main shut off, contact the landlord immediately and let others in your building know, too.
Call a plumber. Contact a professional as soon as possible. If a big chill has settled into your region, the plumbers will be super-busy — so make sure you let them know the urgency of your situation. Because a burst pipe waits for no one!
Drain the water. You’ve already turned off the main water, now it’s time to drain what you can out of the pipes. Turn on all the cold taps, then switch off the hot water heating system and turn on all the hot taps. Finally, flush the toilets until they don’t refill. The leaking should stop now.
Assess water damage. Depending on the extent of the leak, you might need to turn off the electricity to the water-damaged areas of your home. Don’t forget to look up and check the ceilings. If you see a bulge or a sag, this means that your ceiling is holding water and it’s not safe to be under it.
If the leak has gone unnoticed for some time, you might need a professional clean-up crew. Ask your plumber or your American Family Insurance agent if they can recommend a local company that specializes in water damage restoration.
Clean up the water. If you caught the leak early and there’s no immediate danger, you can begin the clean-up while you wait for a plumber. A wet/dry vacuum will do a great job of pulling water out of carpets. If you don’t have one, you can always rent one. Dehumidifiers, towels, mops and buckets come in handy, too. Use whatever works best for your situation.
Prevent future pipe bursts. Talk to your plumber about the condition of your pipes. If they’re older and prone to future freezing, it might be time to replace them. But if they still have some good years left, make sure they’re properly insulated to keep them protected from the chill.
Contact your insurance agent. Once the immediate threat has been resolved, it’s time to connect with your American Family Insurance agent to see if your homeowners insurance will cover the damage to your property. Your agent will walk you through your options and help you begin the claims process.
What If My Pipes are Frozen but Not Leaking?
If you discover that the pipes in your home are frozen, but haven’t burst yet, you might be able to save yourself a plumbing bill by un-freezing them yourself. But again, acting quickly is key because frozen water expands and this makes your pipes susceptible.
Keep the faucet open. If you turned on the water and only a trickle came out, that’s a big clue that you have a frozen pipe. It’s time to get busy thawing that pipe! Keep the faucet open so as you melt the water it can flow freely. This will help your efforts and get the blockage moving faster.
Warm it up. If you can locate the frozen pipe, get ready to warm it up. Get the water flowing again by using a hair dryer, heating pad or warm washcloth to thaw the ice. Don't use an open flame of any type to warm up the pipe. If you can’t find the frozen area, call a professional so you can manage the freeze before the pipe bursts.
Check for more frozen spots. When there’s one frozen pipe, there might be more. Check all the faucets in your home and the toilets to make sure water is flowing freely and at normal pressure levels.
How to Prevent Frozen Pipes in the First Place.
To avoid the mess, hassle and expense of frozen pipes, proactive protection is your best course of action. If you take the following steps, you may be able to prevent frozen pipes and weather the chill without incident.
Know where to look. The pipes most susceptible to freezing are outside or located in unheated interior areas like basements, attics, crawlspaces, garages and even in some cupboards and run against exterior walls where there is little or no insulation. Be sure to pay close attention to pipes in these areas and watch for freezing.
Insulate your pipes. Cover your vulnerable pipes with insulation to give them that blanket of coverage. If you don’t have any insulation, newspaper will work in a pinch.
Caulk cracks. If there are cracks in the foundation or walls, sealing them can help keep your home and your pipes warm.
Add insulation. If your attic, basement or crawlspace isn’t well insulated, this extra step will not only add some protection to your pipes but will make your home more energy efficient, too.
Turn off outside water. Disconnect your outdoor garden hoses and turn off the water supply to spigots. Once you turn off the water to outside areas, leave the faucets open to allow them to drain. If any water is left inside those pipes, it can now expand and freeze without causing a break. If you won’t be using those outdoor faucets for the whole season, cover them with an insulated cup.
Let it drip. Letting water drip from your faucets can keep the lines open and prevent freezing.
Open cupboard doors. For pipes under sinks, open cupboard doors to help the warm air circulate.
Keep it heated. During very cold periods, keep your thermostat at a warmer setting, day and night. If you’re going to be away during the winter, it’s best to set the temperature in your home at 55 degrees or warmer.
Relocate pipes. If you have regular issues with frozen and burst pipes, it might be time to relocate those specific pipes, especially if they’re exposed to the elements. This can be an expensive solution, but it may save you money and hassle in the long run.
Remember the old adage — an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. When it comes to frozen pipes, it’s certainly true that a little precaution goes a very long way toward helping you protect your home and your property. You can take that proactive step even further by touching base with your American Family Insurance agent to review your homeowners insurance and make sure your policy is up-to-date and has all the coverage you need.