How to Prevent and Thaw Frozen Water Pipes

February 27, 2017

Ah, winter! The endless piles of snow, and equally endless hours of shoveling it, the cozy nights curled up by the fire, the risk of a water pipe bursting in the middle of the night, when the temperatures drop to their lowest.

When temperatures outside drop below twenty degrees and stay there, water pipes located in outer walls or un-insulated basement walls have the potential to freeze and break, and even a crack only 1/8th of an inch wide can cause over 250 gallons of water to flow forth in a single day, soaking your floors, furniture and other belongings, and causing mold and rot if left to linger.

You can’t stop the snow from falling, or the temperatures from dipping, but if you live in a place where sub-freezing temperatures are the norm during winter, you can take measures to protect yourself from pipe-damage, and the resulting insurance hassles.

Here are six things you can do to help minimize the risk of frozen pipes during a lingering freeze:

  • Wrap exposed pipes. You can buy insulating sleeves at almost any hardware store.
  • If you have outside garden hoses, disconnect them from the spigots.
  • When temperatures dip to their lowest keep water running through both the hot and cold faucets – moving water doesn’t freeze easily, and you only need a trickle.
  • Check the status of your insulation. You need it wherever you have pipes running: along outside walls, under floors that are above the basement, and above the ceiling (under the eaves) in unfinished attics.
  • Check for cracks in your foundation, especially in crawlspaces. If found, they should be taped and sealed to keep the elements out.
  • Keep the cabinets under your sinks open to allow warm air to circulate, but don’t bump into the cabinet doors.

Of course, you should also read through your insurance policy before anything happens, and make sure the phone number to call if you need to make a claim is in an accessible place.