It may be slow coming to us the year, but freezing temprature is around the corner and now is the time to get ready. Georgia’s mild winters often keep us from preparing our homes as we should. Cold tempratures can wreck havoc on plumbing, and a burst pipe will quickly rack up costly damages to your home.

Fortunalty, staying ahead of the game is easy. Here are a few simple tips to prepare your pipes for winter.

1. Prepare Your Outside Faucets

Your exterior faucets are directly exposed to the weather and are the most vulnerable pipes you have. Start by disconnecting and draining any garden hoses. Place a Foam Faucet Cover over each spigot to keep them insulated.

2. Insulate Unheated Pipes

Find any pipes that run through unheated areas such as garages, crawlspaces or attics. These will be more prone to freezing and should be insulated with pipe wrap or heat tape.

3. Leave Water Dripping

If you are expecting a particularly cold night and want a little extra peace of mind, leave your faucets running at a trickle. This will keep water moving and prevent freezing.

4. Keep The Heater Maintained

If your heater has not been serviced recently, there is a good chance that it will go out on the coldest night of the year. Get ahead of the game by having the pros service it now. Be sure to change the filter every month. This simple step will keep your pipes safe and keep you warm!

5. Plan For Travel

If you are leaving town for any length of time, take a few simple steps to protect your pipes. First, keep your heat running at 55 degrees or warmer. Next, leave the cabinets open so heat can easily get to the pipes. Finally, shut off your main water supply to the house and turn off your water heater at the breaker. These simple steps could save thousands in water damage repairs.

Finally… Know Who To Call

If the worst happens and you are faced with water damage from a burst pipe, have our number handy. Branch Enviromental is on call 24/7 to handle you emergencies.

A water leak in your home can quickly go from an annoyance to an all-out catastrophe. As a broken toilet or dishwasher supply line spews water, the gallons quickly add up and damage to your home mounts.

You may not be a plumber or even a handyman, but there is one thing you should be able to do: QUICKLY TURN YOUR WATER OFF!

Being able to stop the flow of water into your home is the single best thing you can do to minimize damage, and it is easier than you might think.

Step 1: Determine if you are supplied by municipal water or a well.

This one is easy… if you pay a water bill you are on a municipal supply.

Step 2: Find Your Shutoff

If you have a well, you can simply go to your electrical panel and find the breaker or go to your well house and find the shutoff switch. Turn off the power and the water should stop.

If you are supplied by municipal water, head to the street and look for the water meter box in the ground. It’s probably a few feet off the street somewhere along your property line.

When you lift the lid off the box, you should be able to see your water meter. It is a dial with numbers that show the amount of water you have used. Next to the water meter is your water valve. There is a good chance you will have to dig some dirt out of the box to find the valve. Once the valve is clear, use a pair of pliers to turn it back and forth a few times. It probably will only take 1/4 of a turn fully close.

That is it! Now you know how to shut your water off in an emergency.

Step 3: Be Proactive

We get frequent calls from people returning home from vacation to find their homes flooded. One of our own team members had a mouse chew through his dishwater supply line while he was out of town! These unexpected leaks can lead to massive damage. Taking the simple step of shutting off your water when you will be away for a few days can save you from big repairs.

 

Faucet on frozen pipes

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!

Flooding from burst pipes

After the frozen first week of January, calls about burst pipes started pouring in. Dozens of folks suddenly had a lot of water on their hands, and the below-freezing weather didn’t help.

We don’t usually get this many calls about burst pipes because it usually doesn’t get this cold in the Athens area. But freezing temperatures aren’t the only culprit of unexpected flooding. Dishwashers, washing machines, and toilets can all flood and cause serious damage to your home. What do you do in these situations?

First Steps to Take When Your Home is Flooding

1. Stay calm, find the water shut off valve, and turn it off!

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. Turn the valve clockwise, or to the right, to shut off the water. It is incredibly helpful to know where the water valve is located before the disaster happens. Make it a goal to make sure you know where it is before going to bed tonight. Your local water department is happy to help.

While you’re turning off the valve, have someone call us so we can get there ASAP to help. Add our number into your phone now in case of emergency: (706) 310-0097.

2. Begin containing water in a single area.

Use buckets, towels, and/or a shop vac to keep the water from running all over your home. Essentially, you’re trying to sand bag in an area to prevent further damage.

3. Keep the water away from hardwood floors if at all possible.

Some hardwood floors can be refinished, but some have to be removed and replaced. If you can contain the water in a room with tile or vinyl floors, you’ll be able to avoid an inconvenient remodel.

4. Use whatever you have to get the water out.

Scoop the water up with a dustpan or plastic container and throw it in the sink or out the door. It’s important to remove as much water as fast as you can to mitigate damage.

5. Remove all affected carpet pad.

If the flooding has reached your carpet, pull back the carpet and remove the wet carpet pad. If you don’t, the carpet pad will hold water like a sponge, allowing the water to soak into the subfloor and cause extensive, and expensive, damage.

6. Take pictures and document the damage and work you perform.

Do not forget this important step. If you plan to file an insurance claim, you will likely need documentation of the water damage and any work you performed to mitigate the damage. Pictures showing how far the water traveled are invaluable, as are pictures of wet carpet pads and the burst pipe or plumbing fitting. Some insurance companies will require you to submit the damaged water line or fitting, so make sure to ask your plumber to leave the damaged part with you after he or she performs the repair.

If you do these things right away, you can dramatically reduce the level of flooding damage in your home, but please don’t think “All under control, I’ll call Branch next week.” Mold can start growing in 48 hours! Water behind baseboards and cabinets, wet carpet tack strips and other areas that are hard to reach are a ticking mold time bomb.

Call a professional as soon as possible, or the problem will grow exponentially and become much more expensive to fix. To learn how to prevent burst pipes in the future, check out our 6 ways to keep frozen pipes from bursting.