Preventing your pipes from freezing

Preventative maintenance is the best way to avoid a plumbing disaster during extremely cold weather, but many homeowners don’t protect their pipes during the winter months. Don’t worry if you haven’t. It’s not too late.

If pipes in your home are not properly insulated, cold weather can cause them to freeze and even burst. This can cause serious damage to your home.

“Notoriously, what happens is pipes freeze at night when it’s extra cold, and then you end up potentially not noticing the damage or your calling a plumber in the middle of the night,” said Angie’s List founder Angie Hicks. “All of that leads to more costs and more mess.”

“Literally an ice ball starts forming at the coldest part, and then depending on how cold that ice ball will start working its way backwards – start freezing and filling up the line,” noted plumber Jack Hope. “Then, when you actually have a problem is when this line bursts. The reason it bursts is simply that it runs out of places to go.”

Homeowners can do many things to prevent this situation. Always disconnect outdoor hoses in the winter. Running water at a trickle and opening cabinet doors to circulate warm air can also prevent or even fix a problem.

“If you’re one, just without water at a certain fixture, so your kitchen sink has neither hot water nor cold water, your best bet is going to be to open up those cabinets, turn your faucet on, try to get water moving through there, if there’s at all a trickle, be sure to leave the faucet on and that trickle will eventually melt the rest of the ice in there and open the line all the way up,” Hope added.

Insulating exposed pipes is a great way to prevent damage. Homeowners can wrap their own pipes, but Angie’s List suggests consulting with a plumber to make sure that it is done properly. If you choose to hire a professional, a qualified plumber or handyman can insulate your home’s plumbing for $200 to a $1,000, depending on the size of the project.

“Best course of action if you do have a pipe freeze is get the water turned off right away to that area of your house. That way you can eliminate part of the mess,” Hicks remarked. “Then call the plumber right away so they can thaw that pipe before it bursts. That way you can prevent the water mess that you could potentially face.”

As plumbing emergencies can happen at any time, it’s important to do your research and develop a relationship with a plumber before you need one.