After the far-below-freezing night of January 6th, we received dozens of calls regarding frozen pipes bursting. The pipes freeze, expand, crack, and then flow freely when they thaw. It’s not pretty, and we empathize with our clients in this situation.
It can happen to anyone when it’s that cold — 7°F! — so we want to provide a few tips on how to prevent frozen pipes from bursting, ruining parts of your home, and certainly ruining your day.
How to Prevent Frozen Pipes from Bursting
1. Find out where your water shut off valve is.
It’s usually by the street and has a metal cover over the inground box. The valve is inside and can be closed using a crescent wrench or a water shut off tool found at most hardware and home improvement stores for under $10. Turn the valve clockwise, or to the right, to shut off the water. Don’t wait for the emergency—find it in advance. If you’re not sure where it is, call the water department and ask them to show you where it is located.
2. Leave the sink faucet dripping overnight.
You’ve likely heard this one, but it’s a good practice to remember. Unfortunately, if the temperature drops low enough, the water flow won’t always save your pipes. Note: We DON’T recommend this for outdoor faucets. See tip 6 below to learn how to protect outdoor faucets.
3. Make sure you have adequate insulation in the walls.
Most of the frozen lines that we’ve fixed have been in exterior walls, which you can’t easily open to investigate. It may be worth calling an insulation provider to check how protected your water pipes are. Insulation should be on the exterior side of the pipes.
4. Heat pipes from the inside the house.
If you think you have a non-insulated wall and you have access to it on the inside, a space heater in the adjacent room can help keep lines warm and prevent them from freezing.
5. Insulate water wall lines in the attic.
A lot of pipe bursts happen in attics. Do you have exposed, non-insulated water lines in your attic? If you can see them, then the answer is yes. Cold air coming in through soffit vents can freeze your pipes inside the attic. The attic is a really bad place for a leak, because the leak can soak the ceiling below it and cause it to come crashing down. By properly insulating your attic, you protect your pipes and save on energy costs.
6. Cover outdoor faucets.
The best thing to do on the outside of the house is to use outdoor faucet covers. These come in various styles and are constructed of plastic, styrofoam, or even fabric. Don’t wait until the day of the cold-snap, because like milk and bread at the grocery store, faucet covers are one of the first items to sell out when cold weather is on the way.
In that case, wrap your faucets with towels, insulation, and waterproofing material, like a garbage bag or or plastic sheeting. Secure with bungie cords and/or duct tape. Ideally, pick up the store-bought covers next time you’re near a home improvement store. Better early than sorry!
Unfortunately, even with all these precautions if it gets cold enough your pipes can still freeze and burst. If that happens, stay calm and follow our quick guide on what to do if your pipes burst!