What Happens When Water Pipes Freeze?
As soon as the frozen water inside a broken pipe thaws, it of course pours out of the break. It obeys the law of gravity and flows downward, often ruining furniture, flooring, walls, and possessions.
Cleaning up after water pipes have burst requires professional equipment such as pumps, wet vacs, and industrial-grade fans to remove water and dry out interiors. In situations where floodwaters sit for a length of time, mold may grow, and structural damage may occur.
There are several things you can do to protect the pipes inside and outside your house.
What to Do About Pipes Inside a House
- We recommend opening cabinets that contain plumbing components, such as those in kitchens, bathrooms, and laundry rooms with sinks. This allows heated air to fill the cabinet and keep pipes warm.
- Don’t lower your thermostat at night. Keep it at daytime settings so the pipes inside your house stay warm. Doing this will also keep floors warm enough to protect the pipes that run underneath them in the crawlspace. Getting into a crawlspace to cover water pipes can be hard (and who wants to do that in super cold weather, anyway?). It will cost much less to run the heat than it will to pay for repairs from burst pipes.
- Don’t lower the thermostat too much when you leave the house for work or vacation. Set it to 55 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.
- Keep garage doors closed if you have water lines that run through the garage.
- Get an electric heating cable at your local home improvement or hardware store. When wrapped around vulnerable pipes and plugged in, it will provide just enough warmth to keep the water inside the pipes from freezing. Heating cables do not draw excessive amounts of electricity, and again, whatever you pay to have them on will be less than the cost of repairs after a water pipe bursts.
How to Protect Pipes Outside a Building
- Outside pipes can also be protected by heating cables. You may need some extension cords.
- Slightly open the spigot served by outside water pipes. Let water drip out. The slight draw and movement of water will keep it from freezing solid and expanding and bursting pipes.
- Wrap exterior pipes and keep them dry. You can cover pipes with insulating sleeves, pool noodles, or towels wrapped with duct-taped garbage bags. Even diapers can be pressed into service since they contain layers of absorbent material inside a waterproof shell.
What You Can Do About Frozen Pipes
Do not use a blowtorch or flame to thaw out frozen pipes, and do not use anti-freeze. You can apply hot towels or electric heating pads or run a space heater near the pipes.
How to Fix Broken Pipes
Call the professionals at Abacus Plumbing to repair broken pipes. In some cases, sections of piping may need replacing rather than repairs. Our experienced plumbers make repairs and replacements and will restore your plumbing system to full functionality.
Thanks to Frank Billingsley (Chief Meteorologist at KPRC 2 Houston) and Mark Huffman (Consumer Affairs) for some of the suggestions used in this article.