Gettin er Done at Home

Gettin er Done at Home

Sunday, January 5, 2014

How To Prevent And Fix Freezing Water Pipes

With current sub zero and way below average freezing temps sweeping the United States the first thing that many homeowners   suffer from is frozen water pipes. The best way to deal with this is to prevent them from freezing in the first place. But if the freezing takes place, you'll have to act fast to minimize the damage and thus, the costs of repairs.

 Areas in red will be below 32 degrees Tuesday morning January 6, 2014. The country will basically be an ice cube. Coldest winter outbreak since 1996. 

Map as of 01/06/14
  • Know Where Your Water Main Shut-Off Valve Is Located 
Everybody should know where there Water main shut-off valve is located.

This is a very important need to know that if you do not know where it is now you need to locate it and ensure it can easily be turned off. The sooner you can shut off the water in an emergency, the less it will cost you in damages later. The two most common types of shut-off valves are:

Gate Valve
Ball Valve

Not Only should you know where your main is located, you want to check to see if it functions well; that is, turns on and off with ease. If it does not, then you will want to call a plumber to replace it or do it yourself.  As such, if your your home has the older gate-style valve, it will be worth the investment ($250.00 - $400.00) to have it replaced with the more reliable ball valve.
  • Preventing Frozen Water Pipes 
  1.  Let the Water Slowly Drip 

This is the old school way and best prevention to avoid having a frozen water pipe in your home when the temperature drops down low. You should not have to let all your faucets drip, only the ones that are prone to or possibly may freeze. 
      2.   Insulate the Water Pips

You can purchase pipe insulation that is especially made for water pipes. This type of foam insulation is inexpensive and readily available at your local home center or hardware store. It comes in lengths and rolls as well. The lengths are round and they have a slit on the side so they can be cut down to size and slid over the pipe. One type has an adhesive edge that you can simply pull off the protective strip and squeeze the seams together, making it a seamless instillation.

 The other is the same it just does not have the adhesive strip. Thus, you will have to use  duct tape or insulation tape to wrap around the insulation to secure it. I prefer the adhesive type, but still use tape as required at ends and joints.

      3. Install Heat Tape on Exposed Pipes

This product is also readily available, but much more expensive. It also takes much longer to install. However, in some situations it is the only choice. I am not a huge fan of heat tape.
Make sure you purchase a high quality "UL Listed" product. More importantly, ensure you are plugging it into a grounded receptacle or GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter). If using an extension cord,  again use a high quality "UL Listed" product. You can also use a surge protector strip to plug in the tape as well. Once installed you then want to wrap it with a rolled type fiberglass pipe insulation also available at any home center or hardware store. Strictly follow the manufactures directions.

      4. Leave Cabinet Doors Open
Try to leave the cabinet doors open under bathroom vanitys and kitchen sinks to allow the heat to reach the pipes.

  • Why Freezing Pipes Burst 
Not all freezing pipes burst. However, when a pipe does burst, it is the result of water expanding when it freezes, putting serious pressure on the plumbing pipes. That pressure can cause a tiny leak at a fitting joint or  a horizontal crack on a length of pipe, unleashing the full flow of water inside your home.

The damage from a bursting pipe is one of the most common home owners insurance claims. With an average claim cost of about $5,000.00.
  • Identifying Freezing Pipes
A pipe coated with frost or swelling like a snake just ate a hearty meal is a good sign that it is frozen. However, not all plumbing pipes are visible. Creating a serious problem if they do freeze behind the walls, floors and/or ceilings.

If your faucets are running slow or won't flow  and/or your toilets won't refill following a flush. that's a good sign your pipes are frozen.

  • How To Thaw A Frozen Pipe 
As stated above, before doing anything, shut of the water main or the water supply to that section of plumbing. Because the real problem begins after the thaw. For, in some cases, the frozen water main may be acting as a stopper,  preventing the water from streaming out the crack / hole in the pipe. Accordingly, when that stopper is thawed, water comes streaming out. Thus, I recommend that you be prepared prior to beginning the thaw with towels a bucket and a mop just in case.

Using a heat gun, hair dryer or space heater slowly thaw the length of frozen pipe.

You can also wrap the pipe with as stated above, thermostatically controlled heat tape. It is very effective and easy to do.The one thing you do not want to do is use a propane torch to thaw pipes it presents a fire hazard.Once the pipe has been thawed out you can repair it.

If you do not have any real plumbing experience I recommend that you call a professional plumber. Doing it your self can also be done by using new readily available quick connect fittings such as Shark Bite the equivalent. A simple tube cutter can cut the section of damaged pipe out and then you can quickly snap on the quick connect fittings.

  • What To Do If A Pipe Bursts
If you come home or wake up and find Niagara Falls, the first thing you want to do is shut of the main water supply as discussed above. Second, call your local plumber or get prepared to fix it yourself. Frozen pipes are very common in the winter and especially common in a season we are having currently with extremely below average temperatures. This is not a problem you want to wait on or procrastinate about, you want to rectify it at its early stages. The damage to your home can be serious and therefore costly.

If you have any questions or a situation you need advice on please email me direct at: or on Facebook at:

Thank you "Scott Binsack"