Frozen pipes are not usually a huge problem in St. Louis, but it occurs often enough. It can cause so much damage that it pays to prevent your pipes from freezing.
Mitigation Matters With Frozen Pipes
Know where the main water shutoff is located and make sure every family member knows how to shut off the water at the main. The damage occurs after the water has had a chance to thaw and the ruptured or failed plumbing will spew water into your home. Stay vigilant for several days after the big freeze to make sure you do not have any problems. One way to quickly ascertain if there is a problem, is to turn off all of the faucets and ice-maker after the big freeze starts to thaw. Be sure to monitor the water meter for any movement that would indicate unseen leaks.
Prevention Matters With Frozen Pipes
- Insulate your hot and cold water pipes with ready-made foam sheathing. You might want to go as far as wrapping your pipes in UL-approved heating tape that has a built-in thermostat to cause the pipes from overheating.
- Turn off your lawn watering sprinklers and have the pipes blown out with compressed air. This is an ordinance in St. Louis County.
- Drip both hot and cold faucets in kitchen and bathrooms. This will keep water moving through the pipes. Pay particular attention to pipes running through outside walls. Ice makers should be left on and set to make ice, especially if the water lines run under the house or through a back wall.
- Open cabinet doors under sinks in the kitchen and bathrooms to allow heat and circulation to enter the area.
- Disconnect and drain garden hoses during the winter. In order to protect exterior faucets, cover the faucets with insulated foam covers. Or, better yet, cut off the water supply to exterior or install exterior faucets that cut off the water supply inside foundation walls.
Frozen Pipes: Real-Life Examples
One customer forgot to drain the pipes in his garage and found out the hard way, three days after the freeze. That was me. Luckily it was contained in the garage. Another homeowner was unlucky enough to have the original builder simply forget to insulate one section of drywall. Builder’s error. Pipes froze, burst and ruined his basement wall and a lot of business equipment. Luckily, he had policies for both losses. That claim was probably over $20,000.
One client remembered to disconnect his hose, but was unaware that you have to remove the quick-connect attachment if you use a quick connect system for your hoses.
This last one is my favorite one. A former client had an outside wall pipe freeze. He tore off his siding and attempted to thaw the pipe using a butane torch –during a blizzard with 40 mph winds. The house completely caught fire and burned. The fire department put out the blaze, but in doing so, completely filled the house with water. That claim was easy to adjust. Everything in his home was literally frozen in time and encased in three inches of solid clear ice.
To sum it all up, here’s what you need to remember about frozen pipes:
- Mitigate your water loss by teaching everyone in the house how to turn off the main water supply.
- Prevent losses by insulating pipes and circulating warm air throughout your house.
- And never use a blowtorch on your house during a blizzard.