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What Should You Do if Your Pipes Freeze?

As temperatures drop, the risk of your pipes freezing rises. When frozen, pipes are prone to bursting, which can result in severe water damage in homes and businesses. The pipes most likely to freeze in frigid temperatures are those located in unheated or uninsulated areas of the property, such as attics, basements, and garages. However, if the outside temperature drops low enough, and stays low for long enough, all pipes can freeze.

To limit your exposure to burst pipes and any subsequent damage, you need to know why pipes freeze in the first place, what you can do to prevent them from freezing, and the steps you should take if your pipes do freeze. It’s also important to know the best course of action for dealing with a burst pipe or if your property suffers water damage as a result of one. Continue reading to learn everything you need to know about frozen pipes.

Why Do Pipes Freeze?

It may seem obvious that pipes freeze when the temperature outside drops below freezing. However, it isn’t quite that simple. While water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, pipes typically don’t freeze until the outside temperature is around 20 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. And as previously mentioned, the first pipes to freeze typically are those in unheated or uninsulated areas of the property. Overall, several factors play into whether pipes freeze or not. These include:

Exterior Temperature – The number one factor in whether pipes freeze or not is the exterior temperature. After all, pipes won’t freeze if it’s not cold outside. As such, when the temperature does begin to drop, you need to start considering your pipes and the steps you can take to keep them from freezing.

Inadequate Insulation - Most modern homes, especially those in areas that experience harsh winters, are built with insulation around the pipes. However, many older homes, as well as those in parts of the country that don’t typically experience freezing temperatures, often have exposed pipes that are more prone to freezing. Furthermore, pipe insulation can deteriorate over time, exposing previously well-insulated pipes.

Location In The Property - The pipes most likely to freeze are those most exposed to the elements. Therefore, pipes in unfinished attics and basements or garages are usually the pipes most at risk. If any of these areas are drafty, the added wind chill can also contribute to pipes freezing. Finally, pipes located in exterior walls, right next to the cold, are prone to freezing first.

How To Prevent Pipes From Freezing

Once you know the factors that contribute to pipes freezing, you can take the necessary steps to prevent them from doing so. While you can’t control the temperature outside, here are some proven prevention measures you can take to help keep your pipes from freezing.

Insulate The Pipes – Adding pipe insulation to exposed pipes is a great way to keep them from freezing when temperatures plummet.

Insulate Unheated Areas – Insulating areas of the property that are unheated can help to keep pipes in that space from freezing in the winter.

Seal Cracks In Exterior Walls – Cracks that let cold air in increase the risk of frozen pipes, so sealing them off can reduce this risk.

Keep Home Heated – While it may seem obvious, keeping your home well-heated during the colder months can greatly reduce the chances of a frozen pipe. Even if you’re traveling out of town, make sure the temperature in your home never drops below 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

Open Under-Sink Cabinets – Allowing warm air from inside the property to circulate under the sink can help prevent those exposed pipes from freezing.

Drip Your Faucets – If you’re expecting colder temperatures and are worried about your pipes freezing, allowing your faucets to drip water keeps the liquid inside the pipes moving and reduces the chances of it freezing.

Do Frozen Pipes Always Burst?

Although it is common for frozen pipes to burst due to the liquid inside of them expanding as it freezes, frozen pipes are not guaranteed to burst every time. Still, when pipes freeze, the risk of a burst is always present. As such, if any pipes in your property are frozen, it’s best to address the issue right away.

Will Frozen Pipes Thaw On Their Own?

Over time, yes, frozen pipes will thaw on their own, especially as the exterior temperature begins to rise. However, since frozen pipes are at risk of bursting, it’s best not to wait until this happens. Instead, there are steps you can take to thaw any frozen pipes quickly and reduce your exposure to any water damage. If you suspect one or more of your pipes are frozen, follow these steps:

Turn Off The Water Supply – When a pipe freezes, it is essential to shut off the main water supply for the property. If the frozen pipe has burst, it may not be noticeable until the water inside it thaws and begins to leak out. To limit water damage, the water supply must be turned off.

Locate The Frozen Pipe – Look for the frozen pipe in areas like the attic, basement, and garage. You can also try to follow the pipe from any faucets that weren’t getting water through them. Frozen pipes are often covered in frost.

Open Any Faucets Connected To The Frozen Pipe – Opening faucets helps relieve pressure and keep the pipe from bursting.

Inspect Pipe For Leaks or Bursts – As mentioned, burst frozen pipes won’t leak until the liquid inside of them has thawed. Therefore, it’s best to inspect the pipes for bursts or cracks while frozen. If you notice any bursts or cracks, call a plumber immediately.

Manually Warm The Pipe – If you have access to the frozen pipe, you can try to warm it up manually. Add insulation around the pipe or heat the area with a space heater. Do not attempt to warm the pipe itself with any exposed flame.

What To Do If Your Pipes Burst?

If the water supply is not turned off and the pipe bursts, the risk of water damage within the property is highly likely. Water can ruin both the property itself and the items inside it, proving to be quite costly. Furthermore, it can lead to mold growth, which presents its own problems. Therefore, it is important to address flooding and water buildup right away.

If you are dealing with damage due to a burst pipe, BELFOR offers professional water extraction and drying services and water damage restoration services. Nobody wants to deal with a burst pipe and the subsequent damage that can come with it. Contact the professionals here at BELFOR right away and mitigate any water damage to your property.