How to Prevent Frozen and Exploding Pipes

It's going to be a really cold week! Although the cold temperatures are unpleasant in their own right, home owners should be aware of a greater issue: frozen pipes. Frozen pipes can burst and quickly cause thousands of dollars in water damage to your home, so it pays to make sure that you are protected from this common issue. In this post, you can learn how to prevent your pipes from freezing in the first place, as well as steps you can take to minimize the damage once freezing has occurred.

As with medicine, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! Any pipes that have frozen in the past are obviously in need of some maintenance, but you should also be on the lookout for pipes that might freeze in the future. How can you identify potentially problematic water pipes? Typically, pipes that freeze are either on the exterior of the house, running through exterior walls, or running through unheated spaces such as the garage.

For pipes that are on the home's exterior, such as hose spigots, your first step should be to remove and drain the hose before winter arrives. This will prevent water from freezing in the hose and raising the pressure within the attached piping. Next, shut off the valve that leads to the spigot and drain any the water from the exterior portion. For maximum caution, you can install a cheap faucet cap to help insulate the pipe.

If the pipe is exposed in an unheated portion of your home, simple pipe insulation will typically be enough to prevent freezing. If that isn't getting the job done, purchase heat tape to put on the pipe. This option is more expensive, but guarantees that the pipe will remain ice-free. Freezing pipes located inside walls will require you to open up the wall and improve the insulation between the pipe and the exterior wall.

Although the lack of water flow from frozen pipes is a nuisance, the bigger issue arises once the ice melts, causing far too much water flow from the damaged pipe! The first thing you need to do upon realizing that your pipes are frozen should be to shut off water to the problematic pipe; otherwise, you risk having a major flood once you've melted the ice. Next, use warm towels, a hairdryer, or a heat gun to gently thaw the frozen pipe. Do not use anything with an open flame, such as a blowtorch or lighter, as this can damage the pipe.

Freezing doesn't always cause the pipe to burst; if there is no visible damage, have someone slowly open the valve while you watch for leaks. Finally, make sure that you insulate the pipe after thawing it, or else you risk it refreezing!