Learn how to prevent water pipes from freezing, and what to do if they do freeze.
During the cold winter months, broken pipes can occur after the water inside them has frozen. After the water thaws in the broken pipe, the water will leak or spray out continuously and can result in significant water damage (that could be costly to repair).
Why Pipe Freezing is a Problem
Water will expand as it freezes putting tremendous pressure on whatever is containing it, including metal or plastic pipes. If the water is trapped inside a pipe with no escape, the expanding ice will cause the pipe to burst. Cracks may appear along the length of a pipe, or joints may break away.
Locations of pipes that freeze most frequently are:
- Outdoor hose bibs, swimming pool supply lines, and water sprinkler lines that are exposed to severe cold
- Unheated interior areas like basements and crawl spaces, attics, garages, or kitchen cabinets that have water supply pipes.
- Exterior walls that have little or no insulation and have pipes that run against the exterior wall.
How to Protect Your Pipes From Freezing
Take these precautions as recommended by the American Red Cross to protect your pipes from freezing.
- Drain water from swimming pool and water sprinkler supply lines following manufacturer's or installer's directions. Do not put antifreeze in these lines unless directed. Antifreeze is environmentally harmful, and is dangerous to humans, pets, wildlife, and landscaping.
- Remove, drain, and store hoses used outdoors. Close inside valves supplying outdoor hose bibs. Open the outside hose bibs to allow water to drain. Keep the outside valve open so that any water remaining in the pipe can expand without causing the pipe to break.
- Add insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces. Insulation will maintain higher temperatures in these areas.
- Check around the home for other areas where water supply lines are located in unheated areas. Look in the garage, and under kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Both hot and cold water pipes in these areas should be insulated.
- Consider installing specific products made to insulate water pipes like a "pipe sleeve" or installing UL-listed "heat tape," "heat cable," or similar materials on exposed water pipes. Newspaper can provide some degree of insulation and protection to exposed pipes – even ¼” of newspaper can provide significant protection in areas that usually do not have frequent or prolonged temperatures below freezing.
- Consider relocating exposed pipes to provide increased protection from freezing.
What To Do If They Freeze
It’s important to call RESTORx (815-235-9606) right away so that we can professionally dry everything that is wet before significant damage and mold occurs. Mold is not the only concern for drying things quickly as carpet can delaminate, drywall can be ruined, hardwood floors can warp, and the moisture can wick into otherwise unaffected areas. In fact, if you delay getting it dried promptly, your Insurance Company can deny the loss. The best news is that your Insurance Company typically pays for frozen broken water pipe damage.
An example of a frozen broken braided water pipe
Example of a frozen broken copper water pipe
When we are called into a water loss, we will identify what is wet and what is not. We will move items out of the way if they are at risk of further damage. Then we extract as much water as we can immediately using special extraction equipment. This does not remove all of the moisture so we use specialized drying equipment to dry the remainder of the moisture. If we get called right away, we can normally get things dry within a few days with minimal damage.