Freezing temperatures can be more than just an unpleasant inconvenience; they can cause substantial damage to household piping. The water inside the pipes is susceptible to cold weather, and if it freezes, it can expand and cause burst pipes. The majority of burst pipes are caused by pressure building against the ice blockage as opposed to the actual expansion of freezing water. A number of factors can contribute to the actual point when freezing will occur, so the best way to prevent the problem is to learn how to prevent burst pipes.
What Causes Freezing Pipes?
Just as water freezes and expands in nature, water within pipes also freezes and expands. Stagnant water freezes as the temperatures drop creating an ice blockage within the pipe. This can sometimes cause a burst pipe, but more often, the ice blockage causes flowing water to build up and eventually burst the pipe. In the north, where below freezing temperatures are quite common in the winter, most household piping is installed within the home’s insulation. However, frozen pipes are actually a more common problem in the south where homeowners are less informed about the problem. The warmer climate causes less concern for the problem, and pipes are typically installed outside of the protection of insulation.
Knowing when pipes are more susceptible is key to preventing burst pipes. In the south, temperatures of 20 degrees Farenheit and lower are considered high risk for freezing pipes. Problems can also occur at higher temperatures if homes have pipes with high risk factors such as exposure to wind or openings in outside walls. Homeowners in the north should also be aware of any uninsulated pipes located in unheated attics or crawl spaces since these pipes will also be susceptible to freezing at the 20 degree threshold. All homeowners should also ensure that outdoor hoses are detached and brought inside during cold weather.
Pipes that are located in areas that are susceptible to freezing can be covered with insulation sleeves available for purchase at home repair and plumbing supply stores. It’s also important to inspect the walls around the pipes for any areas where cold air could enter. Making repairs is a quick way to decrease the chance of pipes freezing. Finally, when homeowners know that temperatures will dip below freezing, they should allow their faucet to drip to prevent pressure building up and causing burst pipes.
Repairing a Frozen Pipe
Once a pipe is frozen, it’s necessary to take immediate action to fix it before the problem worsens. Homeowners should call a plumber as soon as they suspect a frozen pipe. It is much easier to repair a frozen pipe than a burst pipe, so immediate action could end up saving homeowners a lot of money and grief. Once a pipe has burst, the first step is to turn off the main water supply switch. Once the main supply is cut, the remaining water must be drained from the pipe until it is empty. A plumber can help empty the pipe as well as locate and repair the break in the pipe.
A substantial amount of water damage can occur as a result of a burst pipe. Electrical damage can also occur from the water affecting appliances and electric sockets. Once a pipe has burst, contact professionals to help repair the pipes as well as clean up the mess. A quick online search will reveal companies in the area that deal with fixing water damage. In addition to a plumber, homeowners may also want to contact a reputable electrician if they suspect any electric damage.