Creative Ideas Carpentry By Brian Tenney

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Tips For Homeowners

Don't Let Pipes Freeze - And Steps to Take If They Do

 

 

Frozen pipes, one of the most common causes of property damage during frigid weather and can cause more than $5,000 in water damage, according to the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety. The pipes that freeze most frequently are those in such unheated interior spaces as basements, attics, and garages. But pipes that run through your cabinets or that are against an exterior wall are also at risk. Here’s some advice.

When a house's water pipes freeze, the situation is not as simple as calling a plumber. A 1/8-inch crack in a pipe can spew up to 250 gallons of water a day, causing flooding, serious structural damage, and the immediate potential for mold.

Frozen water pipes are a problem in both cold and warmer climates, affecting a quarter-million families each winter, and it can happen in homes with both copper pipes and plastic- PEX and CPVC. It's all too common; especially considering this damage is largely preventable.

In addition to taking the usual preventive precautions, here are a few steps you can take to keep your pipes from turning frigid nights into inconvenient and expensive ordeals.

How To Prevent Pipes From Freezing:

Once the temperature starts dropping outside, you should take measures inside to keep your pipes warm and water running. Some may go against your better instincts of conserving water and heat but the extra expense is nothing compared to a hefty repair bill.

Here’s what to do:

·         Before winter hits, disconnect garden hoses and, if possible, use an indoor valve to shut off and drain water from pipes leading to outside faucets. This reduces the chance of freezing in the short span of pipe just inside the house. Consider installing an anti-freeze faucet.

·         Use an indoor valve to shut off and drain water from pipes leading to outside faucets. This reduces the chance of freezing in the short span of pipe just inside the house. Seal leaks that allow cold air inside near where pipes are located. Look for air leaks around electrical wiring, dryer vents, and pipes, and use caulk, spray foam or insulation to keep the cold out. With severe cold, even a tiny opening can let in enough cold air to cause a pipe to freeze.

·         Insulate pipes in your home's crawl space or basement also the attic, even if you live in a climate where freezing is uncommon. Exposed pipes are most susceptible to freezing. Remember, the more insulation you use, the better protected your pipes will be. Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.

·         Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. (If you have small children or pets, be sure to remove any harmful cleaners and household chemicals.)

·         Let the cold water drip from a faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe—even at a trickle—helps prevent pipes from freezing.

·         Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night temporarily. If you live in an old house built over an un insulated crawl space, this isn't the time to worry about your heating bill. Turning up your thermostat will increase the air temperature in the crawlspace by projecting heat energy through the floor into the space. Plan on insulating and air sealing the space.

·         If travelling in the winter months might be good for the soul, but don't forget to think about your pipes before you leave:

A.    Set the thermostat in your house no lower than 55°F (12°C)

B.     Ask a friend or neighbor to check your house daily to make sure it's warm enough to prevent freezing.

C.     Shut off and drain the water system. Be aware that if you have a fire protection sprinkler system in your house, it may be deactivated when you shut off the water.

·         Use foam board to insulate large areas, keep the heat in with a rough-and-ready barrier built with foam board.

·         For the long term, add insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces. Insulation will maintain higher temperatures in those areas.

·         Heat tape or thermostatically controlled heat cables to keep a cold pipe from freezing. Be sure to use products approved by an independent testing organization, such as Underwriters Laboratories Inc., and only for the use intended (exterior or interior).Closely follow all manufacturers' installation and operation instructions. Some heat tapes are wrapped around the pipe, others simply run along it. If you can't find heat trace cable at your local home center, try an electrical supply house. Sometimes this cable is cut to length from a roll; in which case you may have to buy a kit (or separate parts) to convert into a working heat trace cable. In other cases, the cable is sold ready to use, with one end safely terminated and insulated and the other end with an electrical plug.

·         Place a space heater near areas of unprotected pipes to keep them from freezing. Remember, the goal is not to make the space toasty warm and comfortable. It's to keep the water in the pipe above freezing. Remember to make sure there is a non  surface for the unit to sit on and follow manufactures directions and warnings.

·         Turn off the water in the worst case. Turn off the main water valve while the house is unoccupied or while you sleep. If a pipe freezes and breaks, the spillage is limited only to the water in the pipe.

If You’re Pipes Do Freeze:

What if your pipes still freeze, despite your best preventive measures? First step: Don't panic. Just because they're frozen doesn't mean they've already burst. Here's what you can do:

  1. If you turn on your faucets and nothing comes out, leave the faucets turned on and call a plumber.
  2. Never try to thaw a pipe with a torch or other open flame because it could cause a fire hazard. Water damage is preferable to burning down your house!
  3. You may be able to thaw a frozen pipe using a hair dryer. Start by warming the pipe as close to the faucet as possible, working toward the coldest section of pipe.
  4. If your water pipes have already burst, turn off the water at the main shutoff valve in the house; leave the water faucets turned on. Make sure everyone in your family knows where the water shutoff valve is and how to open and close it.
  5. Do not touch or use electrical appliances in areas of standing water due to electrocution concerns.
  6. Lastly if your water pipes have already burst, turn off the water at the main shutoff valve in the house; leave the water faucets turned on and call 911. Make sure everyone in your family knows where the water shutoff valve is and how to open and close it. Likely places for the water turn-off valve include internal pipes running against exterior walls or where water service enters a home through the foundation.

How To Thaw Your Pipes:

If you turn on a faucet and only a trickle comes out, suspect a frozen pipe. Likely places for frozen pipes include those against exterior walls or where your water service enters your home through the foundation. If the water is still running, you can take the following steps but if you suspect a more serious problem, call a plumber.

  1. Do not use electrical appliances in areas of standing water. You could be electrocuted.
  2. Keep the faucet open. As you treat the frozen pipe and the frozen area begins to melt, water will begin to flow through the frozen area. Running water through the pipe will help melt ice in the pipe.
  3. Apply heat to the section of pipe using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, an electric hair dryer, a portable space heater (kept away from flammable materials), or by wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water. Do not use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove, or other open flame device.
  4. Apply heat until full water pressure is restored. Check all other faucets in your home to find out if you have additional frozen pipes. If one pipe freezes, others may freeze, too.
  5. If you are unable to locate the frozen area, if the frozen area is not accessible, or if you can not thaw the pipe, call a licensed plumber.

 

It can happen to anyone — just that one time you forget to protect your home’s plumbing system from freezing, and wake up to flooding in your home. 

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