The weather is now below freezing and many are dealing with burst pipes. Anywhere that the temperature has dropped below freezing increases the possibility of exposed pipes freezing.
Here’s a bit of information to help you understand why pipes burst and some steps you can take to lessen the possibility of your pipes freezing.
Why do pipes burst?
Water expands as it freezes, so water that is sitting in a pipe will place tremendous pressure on the pipe if it does freeze. This pressure can cause the pipe to break. This can happen to any type of pipe including copper, galvanized, PVC and Pex pipes and can include your main water pipes and those that service a sprinkler system.
Where do pipes usually burst?
Pipes that freeze are often exposed to the outside, such as outdoor hose outlets, water sprinkler lines and pool supply lines. Also at risk are pipes in unheated interior areas such as kitchen cabinets, attics, garages, basements and crawl spaces.
Preventing pipes from bursting
- Remove, drain and store garden and other outdoor water hoses.
- Close the inside valves that control the water supply to outside hose attachments (known as bibs).
- Open the outside hose bibs or faucets to allow any water in the line to drain out. Keep this outside valve open so that any water remaining in the pipe can expand without causing the pipe to break.
- Consider installing a “pipe sleeve” for water pipes that are not insulated. Home improvement and building supply stores carry these and other supplies for insulating pipes.
- Open cabinets that house pipes to allow heat to circulate into the area.
- Insulate any exposed pipes.
- If you go away for an extended time during cold weather – days or weeks – before you leave set the temperature in your home above 55 degrees.
- In severe cold weather, let cold water drip from faucets served by exposed pipes. The cold water is still above freezing and will help prevent the pipe from freezing.
What to do when a pipe freezes
If you open a faucet and no water comes out and you discover you have a frozen pipe in your home or business, you need to take steps to thaw the pipe immediately to keep it from bursting.
- First, open the faucet so that water will flow through the pipe once the area is melted. This will help melt more ice.
- Next, apply heat to or around the pipe using a blow dryer or other gentle source of heat. Never use an open flame or blow torch as you risk the possibility of fire and/or the ice to melt then boil which can then cause the water to boil and the pipe to burst from too much heat. Note: Be sure to keep all sources of heat away from flammable materials.
Slowly apply heat, starting close to the faucet end of the pipe, with the faucet open. Work toward the coldest section.
- If you cannot locate the frozen section, you are unable to reach it, or you are unable to thaw it – call a licensed plumber if you cannot locate the frozen section.
- Check for other frozen pipes in your home or business, especially those pipes that are located along an exterior wall or bring the water into the building at the foundation.
- Call your local water utility company for any water emergencies on public property.
What to do if a pipe does burst
- Turn off the water at the main shut-off valve (usually at the water meter or where the main line enters the house); and leave the faucet(s) open until repairs are completed.
- Call a licensed plumber immediately
- Don’t try to thaw a frozen pipe with
- Don’t use electrical appliances while standing in water; you could get electrocuted.
Preventing pipes from freezing is well worth the time and energy. And the cost of allowing a faucet to drip to prevent freezing is well worth the small cost of wasted water versus the cost to repair a burst pipe and any resulting damage.
Download this guide for more information on preventing and dealing with frozen pipes.