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How to prevent your pipes from freezing

As the temperature drops, the risk of your pipe getting damaged from the cold gets very high. According to the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety, one of the primary reasons for property damage during cold weather is the bursting of pipes, which can lead to significant water damage, often incurring costs upwards of $5,000.

Frozen pipes typically occur when temperatures drop significantly below freezing, particularly affecting pipes in unheated or poorly insulated areas of a home like basements, attics, and exterior walls. This risk is compounded if the thermostat is set too low during cold weather, as insufficient heat circulates the pipes. Additionally, pipes exposed to severe cold through cracks or gaps in the building’s exterior are also prone to freezing.

Damages that frozen pipes can cause

Frozen pipes might seem like a minor winter inconvenience, but they can lead to significant and costly damage to your home. Here’s a breakdown of the potential problems:

1. Water Damage

This is the most common and costly consequence. When water freezes, it expands, putting immense pressure on the pipe. This can cause the pipe to crack, burst, or leak, releasing gallons of water into your home. This can damage:

  • Wallboards and insulation: Water can soak into the drywall, creating soft spots, warping, and promoting mold growth.
  • Flooring and carpeting: Wood flooring can warp and rot, carpets can stain and get moldy, and tiles can lift or crack.
  • Furniture and belongings: Anything in the path of the water can be damaged or destroyed.
  • Appliances: Water can damage electrical components and cause appliances to malfunction.

2. Structural Damage

In severe cases, burst pipes can even cause structural damage to your home. The force of the water can weaken walls, floor joists, and foundations, requiring major repairs.

3. Mold Growth

Damp environments created by leaks and spills provide the perfect breeding ground for mold. Mold can cause health problems, weaken building materials, and be expensive to remove.

4. High Utility Bills

Leaky pipes waste water, leading to increased water bills and potentially sewer backups if the leak is in the drain system.

Tips to Help Prevent Frozen Pipes

By taking the preventative measures below, you might help reduce the risk of frozen water pipes and the resulting property damage. Here are some practical tips:

1. Insulate Pipes

Insulation is your first line of defense against freezing pipes. Pay special attention to pipes located in unheated interior spaces like basements, attics, and garages. Foam insulation sleeves are easy to install and can provide a significant protective layer to keep your pipes warm.

2. Try Heat Tape or Heat Cables

For pipes that are at a high risk of freezing, consider using heat tape or heat cables. These electrical heating elements can be wrapped around the pipe to keep it warm during cold spells. Ensure that you follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully to prevent any fire hazards.

3. Seal Leaks

Cold air can enter your home through leaks and cracks, increasing the risk of your pipes freezing. Inspect areas around pipes, especially where they enter your home, and use caulk or insulation to seal any gaps. This not only helps prevent frozen pipes but also increases your home’s overall energy efficiency.

4. Secure Outdoor Hoses, Valves, and Faucets

Before the onset of winter, disconnect garden hoses and, if possible, use an indoor valve to shut off and drain water from pipes leading to outside faucets. This prevents water from freezing on these outdoor lines.

5. Let Water Drip

Allowing a faucet to drip slightly during an extreme cold can prevent pressure from building up in the pipes. Even a trickle of water moving through the pipes can prevent them from freezing.

6. Adjust the Thermostat

Keep your thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night. While it might increase your heating bill slightly, it can prevent a much more costly repair job if pipes freeze and burst.

7. Open Cabinet Doors

Allow warmer air to circulate the plumbing by keeping cabinet doors open under the kitchen and bathroom sinks, especially if the sinks are on an exterior wall. This is a simple but effective way to keep those pipes from freezing.

Call a Professional Plumber if Needed

If you have any problems with your plumbing during the cold months that are beyond you, it’s important to call a professional plumber immediately. At Vossler Plumbing Company, we have the experience and expertise to handle all of your winter plumbing needs. We offer a wide range of services, including pipe repair, drain cleaning, leak detection, and more. 

We are available 24/7 for emergency plumbing repairs. So, if you have any plumbing problems this winter, don’t hesitate to give us a call at 346-712-0050 to make a request.

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