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Avoid catastrophe: How to unfreeze pipes and save your home from water damage

Winter in cold regions can be fun and magical at times, particularly during holidays, but there are a lot of woes that homeowners face during cold weather. It’s always a good idea to winterize your home before the temperature gets too cold, but sometimes the freezing temperatures take their toll. One common issue in the winter is frozen pipes, which can lead to some serious damage to any home. We’re going to discuss how to avoid catastrophe and unfreeze pipes before they can cause you headaches.

The danger of frozen pipes

Water pipes run throughout your entire home, and some of them are more susceptible to freezing than others. Pipes that run through areas that aren’t temperature controlled, like the basement, a crawlspace, your kitchen cabinets, or even pipes on an exterior wall, can quickly freeze.

When the water in the pipes freezes, it expands and creates enormous pressure on the pipe’s material. The pressure causes the pipe to burst open, which not only requires the pipe to be repaired, but can also cause flooding if the burst pipe isn’t caught immediately. Flooding, of course, causes a whole slew of problems, from damaged belongings to mold.

How to tell if pipes are frozen

Throughout the coldest days of the winter, it’s a good idea to examine vulnerable pipes regularly to be sure they aren’t frozen. Some ways you can tell that a pipe is frozen are:

  • Water pressure decreases noticeably
  • Water slows or stops when the faucet is turned on
  • Toilets don’t refill
  • Frost coats the outside of a pipe

What to do if pipes freeze

If you’ve determined that one or more of your pipes have frozen, you don’t need to panic yet. There is a possibility that you can thaw the water inside before it damages the pipe and floods your space. While this process can be done by experienced DIYers, it’s always recommended that you employ the services of a professional for the best outcome.

Shut off the main water supply

If the pipe has cracked, you may not see evidence of it until the water in the pipe is thawed. To prevent flooding once the ice melts, make sure the water is shut off by turning the water supply valve, which is usually located in the basement.

Keep the faucet in the open position

The process of thawing the pipe will produce pressure from steam and liquid, so keeping the faucet open will allow it to be released.

Heat up the pipe

This step requires the most caution. You’ll need to heat up the pipe gradually so that the ice inside melts. We recommend using a hair dryer on it or wrapping the pipe in heating pads to warm it up. Don’t use an open flame like a torch to heat up the pipe, as the direct heat may damage the pipe or cause the water to boil and burst the pipe.

Monitor water flow

As the pipe heats up, the ice will melt and water will release through the faucet. Once you see significant flow, check that the pipe isn’t leaking and turn the main water supply back on. If the water flow appears normal and the pipe isn’t dripping, you’ve done your job correctly.

Steps to take when frozen pipes burst

If the worst should happen and your pipes burst, you’ll need to act quickly to mitigate the water damage that will likely result. When pipes burst, here’s what needs to be done:

  1. Turn off the main water supply immediately. This will stop the flow of water in the home and prevent additional flooding.
  2. Repair the burst pipe. You may be able to perform the repair on your own, depending on the location of the pipe and how severe the damage is. Many pipes can be temporarily or permanently repaired with plumber’s tape, putty, or pipe clamps.
  3. Turn the water back on and be sure the pipe repair was successful and no water is escaping from the damaged portion.
  4. Clean up water thoroughly. Depending on how much water leaked from the burst pipe, you may need to call in a professional water damage cleaning service. More than an inch of water can cause serious damage to your home, as well as mold growth.

How to prevent frozen pipes

Once you’ve gone through the process of fixing frozen or burst pipes, you’ll never want to experience it again. Preventing frozen pipes is always ideal, and here are some ways you can accomplish it:

  • Keep your home’s thermostat set to at least 60 degrees at all times.
  • Winterize your home to make sure heat is kept in and cold air is kept out.
  • Open kitchen cabinet doors regularly to let warm air in around the pipes.
  • Disconnect and drain outdoor faucets before temperatures freeze.
  • On days with extremely cold temperatures, let faucets run on a low drip to keep water flow moving.

Cold days in winter have their own woes when it comes to snow removal, car window defrosting, and seasonal colds. You don’t need the added headache of frozen or burst pipes to top it off. When you see that pipes are freezing, quick action will go a long way in preventing burst pipes and the damage they cause. With this guide, your pipes will be kept safe and in working order throughout the cold winter.

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