What to do (and What Not to do) When Your Pipes Freeze

Frozen pipes are a common occurrence in the winter months.

Do you know why pipes burst? Or what you can do when pipes freeze to prevent rupturing?

Though it’s a common belief, cold temperatures are not the reason frozen pipes burst. The actual cause of the ruptures is from internal pressure that builds up within the pipes. However, freezing cold temperatures do contribute to that pressure buildup.

During the freezing process, water molecules expand, assuming a different pattern and taking up more space in the pipe than when they’re in their liquid state. When they expand, they also push water toward the appliance, for example the faucet, causing the water pressure to increase significantly. When too much pressure builds up, the pipe eventually ruptures – and home water damage can be the result.

There are ways to avoid this, and many of them are simple enough that any homeowner can do it.

Do This After Your Pipe Freezes

• Check the pipes that are exposed outside of the home, that do not have any kind of covering or those that are located in unheated areas.
• Insulate pipes by placing foam on the outsides of them.
• Place a dome or other insulating cover on outdoor faucets or spigots.
• Allow a small amount of water, drips even, to flow through your faucets to avoid pressure buildup in the pipes.
• Apply heat to the area using an electric heating pad or electric hair dryer or towels soaked in hot water.
• Focus on the section of pipe between the frozen area and the faucet
• Monitor the pipe’s status

Don’t Do This After Your Pipe Freezes

• Set up a portable space heater for under the house and leave it unattended.
• Use a blowtorch, propane heater, charcoal stove or any other open flame device as a heating or insulation mechanism
• Stop the flow of water or close the faucet until the pipe is completely thawed and the water flows freely

If you’re ever unsure that what you’re doing is safe, you should call a licensed plumbing professional right away. Frozen pipes do not always have to result in bursts and ruptures. If you take precautions, monitor the pipes and take corrective measures when necessary, you can avoid turning your home into a swimming pool and the resulting water damage restoration cost. leakSMART™ can help, too. If a frozen pipe bursts in your home, leakSMART will automatically shut off your home’s main water supply and alert you of the occurrence, giving you the ultimate peace of mind, especially during the winter months.

Sources:
http://www.livescience.com/43408-why-do-freezing-pipes-burst.html
https://www.allstate.com/catastrophe/pipes-freeze.aspx
https://www.iccsafe.org/wp-content/uploads/DIS-FreezeBurstPipe.pdf
http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/USA-Update/2015/0219/Preparing-for-an-Arctic-blast-How-to-prevent-your-pipes-from-freezing
http://www.nola.com/homegarden/index.ssf/2014/01/you_know_the_drill_run_the_pip.html