Harsh winter weather can wreak havoc on unprotected homes and properties. One of the common causes of property damage during the winter is frozen pipes that break or burst. Broken pipes can cause significant water damage, which can be costly to repair. To protect your home, follow these expert tips.

How can I prevent water damage due to broken or frozen pipes?

Jake Romano

Jake Romano, Project Manager at John The Plumber.

Utilize These Five Tips

If you live in a place with cold winters, there’s a reasonable chance you’ll deal with frozen or burst pipes in your life. Some things you can do to avoid this and reduce water damage include,

1. Be Mindful of Weather Conditions and Plan Accordingly.
If the weather is going to be extremely cold and your home is vulnerable, open a slow trickle from your faucets around the house. Open the hot and cold water lines so that water is moving out of the pipes before [they have] the opportunity to freeze.

2. Add Adequate Insulation.
Go around your home looking for air leaks. Lighting incense and slowly walking around the interior perimeter of your home is a great way to locate it. Simply watch the smoke; if it moves abruptly, you may have a draft. Correcting this may help moderate the temperature within your home.

3. Insulate Pipes As Necessary.

4. Use Space Heaters To Heat Vulnerable Pipes On Extremely Cold Nights and Days.
For example, use a space heater in your basement or crawl space.

5. Consider Installing Heating Cables On Vulnerable Pipes.
Heating cables are relatively inexpensive and fairly easy to install. They provide a little heat to your pipes which can protect them from freezing.

Some other tips (unrelated to winter) include:

  • Don’t hang anything from water lines; not even laundry.
  • Know the location of your water shutoff and teach your family. Acting fast after locating a leak can save thousands of dollars.
  • Have a plumbing inspection by a plumber. Shutoff valves can wear out. Some pipes will show signs of wear and tear, like expansion. Having a plumber inspect your system may help avoid serious issues before they become plumbing emergencies.

Never Turn Off Thermostat

During the winter, pipes freeze at 32 degrees. If you’re heading out of town for an extended time, never turn off the thermostat entirely. Set it to an ambient temperature [for] the entire house, and leave interior doors open to maintain consistency in temperature.

Before you leave, make sure to insulate any pipes that might be prone to freezing, like those in the attic, crawlspace, basement, or pipes on exterior walls.

How can I prevent water damage due to broken or frozen pipes?

Diana Rodriguez-Zaba

Diana Rodriguez-Zaba, President of ServiceMaster of Lake Shore.

How can I prevent water damage due to broken or frozen pipes?

Jared Bowcutt

Bowcutt is a general contractor and owner of Armor Restoration.

Consider Your Home’s Design

Frozen pipes happen all the time in the winter and [prevention] depends on the build of your home.

If you have a crawl space, you first need to make sure that you shut your outside air vents in the fall to limit the cold air blowing through your crawlspace. Also, you need to ensure you have proper insulation installed correctly. If you have a conditioned crawl space, keep the heat above 55 degrees.

In homes with a basement or on a slab, you have to keep the home well heated. Never let your thermostat go below 55 degrees Fahrenheit. If it gets too cold in the home, you can also crack one of your sinks and let the water slowly drip through to keep the flow of water in the pipes to prevent them from freezing.

When building a home, try to have your plumbing positioned on interior walls and stay away from supply lines on exterior walls. This will decrease the possibility of a frozen pipe. Making sure that your home is adequately insulated for the region you live in is important as well.

If you have a vacation home and it is winterized in the fall for winter, you need to take some extra steps. Have a location in the home where you can blow out the pipes using compressed air to remove most of the water in the supply lines. Pour antifreeze in drain pipes that have P-traps to keep them from freezing and cracking.

Have water shut off at the access point of your water supply from the city or well to stop the water from entering the home altogether. If this is not possible, have one as close to the point of entry in the home where access is possible. Heat tape can be used on pipes where there may be issues with insulation or even underground where possible.

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