Before The Burst: Managing Frozen Pipes in Winter
Imagine coming home after a long day, ready to relax and unwind. But instead of finding your home as you left it, there is now an inch of water on the floor and the sound of a drip that drives you insane. One of your water pipes burst and has flooded your home.When your pipes freeze, at first you won’t get much water. If it’s not fixed, then the problem can get worse and your pipes could burst, causing a flood of far too much water where you don’t want it to be (namely, everywhere).
A flood resulting from a broken or burst pipe is a costly affair, not to mention a huge headache that you don’t need. Do you really want to replace your plumbing and deal with water damage to your home in the middle of a maddeningly cold Chicago winter? Of course you don’t. Luckily, broken pipes are preventable.
First thing you need to understand is what causes pipes to break or burst. Water expands when it freezes, causing a blockage within a pipe. If the faucet is closed, then water is stuck between the frozen blockage and the closed faucet. With nowhere for the water to go, pressure builds within the pipe until it is too great to contain. At this point, the pipe will burst.
This happens to pipes that are left exposed to the extreme cold. Most often, it’s pipes outside or in unheated areas within your home or building, such as basements and attics. The record-low temperatures felt throughout the Midwest this winter proved that even the pipes you think will be fine may be vulnerable to freezing. There are a few ways to help prevent a pipe from bursting.
First, make sure pipes exposed to cold temperatures are insulated. You can do this by covering the pipes in fiberglass or foam sleeves, which should be available at any plumbing supply store. Furthermore, it’s a good idea to keep the faucet open enough for water to trickle out. With the faucet open, water inside the pipe has a place to go, rather than just building up and increasing pressure within the pipe.
You can use a heating pad or space heater to warm the frozen section of pipe and melt the ice inside. If you do this, remember to open the faucet so the melting water can drain out. Again, the idea is to reduce the amount of water building up in the pipes, so you’ll need the faucet open.
If you’re unable to fix the frozen pipe yourself, you should contact a licensed plumber immediately. They’ll be able to fix the problem, hopefully before the pipe has burst and caused water damage.
Unfortunately, we live in Chicago and especially in the harsher winters; pipes will burst. If this happens and you need to replace your pipes, you’ll want to buy quality plumbing parts you can trust. Contact experienced plumbing suppliers to help you get what you need to avoid such winter nightmares in the future.