What To Do When Water Pipes Freeze, and How to Prevent It

When the temperatures sink below 15 below zero during brutal Midwest winters, it’s not just people who are endanger of getting frostbite.

Extreme winter temperatures are extremely hard on pipes and leave homes vulnerable to water damage. Exposed pipes, heating system failures and bitterly cold weather can cause your water pipes to freeze.

Severe cold causes freezing water to expand. As freezing water expands, it causes the pressure inside pipes to increase. This cold combination leads to pipe ruptures and a costly end result: Water leaking or flooding in walls and ceilings. Leaks and flooding can cause extensive damage to drywall, ceiling plaster and carpeting and flooring.

And water damage can set in faster than a cold front setting in over Des Moines.

How can you prevent your pipes from freezing?

Get on top of the issue before a winter arctic blast sets in on your pipes:

  • Insulate pipes, especially those close to outside walls, attics or crawl spaces where the chance of freezing is greatest
  • Seal air leaks surrounding or near pipes
  • Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage
  • Disconnect all outdoor hoses and turn off water to exterior faucets and sprinkler systems
  • Keep your home’s heat at 55 degrees fahrenheit – even when you are out of town
  • During a cold spell, turn on both hot and cold faucets near outside walls to allow a small drip of water to run on during the night
  • If you need to be away from home, leave the heat on and drain your water system before you go
  • Identify the locations of shutoff valves so that you are prepared to stop the flow of water as soon as possible when a pipe bursts

Frozen Pipes Response Plan: Timing is Key

Of course, in the merciless cold of winter, it’s not always possible to avoid frozen pipes.

How can you avoid or minimize water and mold damage to your home or business from frozen pipes?

As in all damage prevention, timing is everything. The quicker the response time, the less chance of secondary water damage and mold. Swing into action fast by calling a professional water damage restoration specialist and by taking these damage prevention measures:

  • If a frozen pipe has burst, shut off the water immediately to avoid additional damage
  • Turn off that zone or zones valve on your furnace
  • For pipes with more than one zone, raise the thermostat on those zones to heat up the house or business to prevent other pipes from freezing or rupturing
  • Remove insulation and wrap pipes in rags
  • If available, place space heaters around frozen pipes to help them thaw
  • If all else fails, call your local plumber

Also, take an inventory of any damaged property or possessions and contact your insurance company.

Remember, the quicker you act and respond to the threat and/or reality of frozen pipes, the less chance winter’s bitter freezes have of inflicting severe water damage on your home or business.

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