Are Your Pipes at Risk of Freezing?

Verani Realty

Pipes with ice on themThe freezing temperatures of winter have settled into the Granite State, and that means your water pipes may be vulnerable to costly damages. Water expands as it freezes, and the incredible pressure of this expansion could be too much for metal or plastic pipes.

You may think that since your home is warm you are safe, but think again. The location and temperature conditions of certain pipes can put them at risk. You need to do an assessment of where all your pipes are and protect them accordingly.

The types of pipes that freeze most often are those that are exposed to severe cold, like outdoor hose bibs, swimming pool supply lines, water sprinkler lines, and water supply pipes in unheated interior areas like basements, crawl spaces, attics, garages, or kitchen cabinets.

Prevent from the Outside In

First, you need to detach your garden hoses, shut off the water supply and drain the spigots during the winter. Here’s why:

  • A frozen garden hose can actually burst interior pipes. When the water in the hose freezes, it expands, increasing pressure throughout the whole plumbing system. The result could be a few burst pipes inside your basement.
  • If you don’t have frost-proof spigots for your garden hoses, make certain you close the interior shut-off valve leading to that faucet before temperatures drop below freezing. Then open and drain the spigot of all left over water. Failing to do so can cause the attached pipe to burst.

Prevent Exposed Interior Plumbing from Frost

Plumbing in areas of the home that are not heated, like in the garage or a crawl space, for example, is at risk of freezing.

  • Pipes located in areas that gain some heat from the house, like in your basement, are fairly safe as long heat in the house is working. However, if you lose power for an extended period of time during sub-zero temperatures, they can be at risk of freezing.
  • If you have exposed pipes in unheated areas, they should be protected by wrapping them with foam pipe insulation or thermostatically controlled heat tape (from $50 to $200, depending on length), which will warm up when the temperature drops.

Prevent Freezing in Poorly-Insulated Walls

If your exterior walls lack proper insulation, pipes within them can freeze (if you have an older home, you can tell if this has happened before if you see signs of water damage, moisture or mold).

  • It is wise to open up the wall and invest a few hundred dollars to add more insulation.
  • A burst pipe inside the wall will cause costly damage, which includes rotting wood and risks of mold.

Protect Pipes While on Vacation

Many people take a winter vacation, but before you do, take measures to protect your home and prevent frozen pipes while you are away.

  • If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55 degrees.
  • If you lose power often because of winter storms, consider the extra precaution of shutting off the main water supply and draining the system by opening all faucets and flushing the toilets. No water in the pipes means no water to freeze.
  • Make sure all basement windows are closed.
  • Ask a trusted family member or friend to periodically check on your home if temperatures get extremely cold or a storm strikes while you are away.

In addition to causing extensive water damage, frozen pipes can disrupt your service of water and cost thousands in repairs that stem from more than just the immediate water cleanup. Moisture damage can hurt the integrity of the home’s structure, and lead to wood rot and mold. Because of this, any money spent to prevent frozen pipes is a wise investment.

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