Picture this: You wake up on a cold January morning, crawl out of your warm, comfy bed and wander clumsily into the bathroom.  Without even opening up your eyes, you turn on the water, attempting to splash water on your face.  Much to your dismay nothing comes out of the faucet. You are the unfortunate victim of frozen pipes!!!  How does this happen you may ask…

When temperatures drop to subzero, especially at night when the faucets are shut, the still water inside the pipes freezes to become ice.  The trouble really starts when the ice block becomes thicker and obstructs the pipe thereby preventing the flow of unfrozen water.  Losing water supply is just one of the plumbing problems with which you will have to deal.  When temperatures drop to freezing, water has the property of expanding in volume, and conversely, pipe material contracts.  With the container and content battling each other, the ice eventually comes out the winner and the pipe gives way.  The worst scenario in this situation is a burst pipe, in which case the only cure is to replace the entire segment of damaged pipe.  The trick is to catch the frozen pipe before it deteriorates to this condition and thaw it to restore it to normal.

To help prevent pipes from freezing:

  • Insulate any pipes that are exposed, such as in crawl spaces or those that lead to outside spigots.
  • Keep cabinet doors open when they contain pipes that are near an outside wall.  This allows the heat inside your home to circulate around the pipes and prevent them from freezing.
  • Keep warm water dripping from faucets on outside walls overnight on extremely cold nights.  That means that the water is moving through the pipes and is much less likely to freeze.

Before you have a plumbing emergency, such as a frozen pipe:

  • Know where your main water supply shut-off is.  Look for it under the kitchen sink, which is the most likely location.
  • Know the number of a trusted plumber who will not charge high hourly rates for emergency services.

If a pipe freezes:

  • Turn off the main water supply as soon as you discover the frozen pipe.
  • Remove anything that can be damaged by water from the area around the pipe and cover anything that cannot be removed to protect it against water in case the pipe bursts.
  • Call your trusted plumber immediately.  Never attempt to thaw a frozen pipe on your own.  A plumber knows what to do safely and with minimal damage to your home and belongings. The type of flooding that occurs with a burst pipe can damage your home’s structure and electrical wiring.  A trained plumber can help prevent this.

Winter weather brings a unique set of problems all over your home, but the one that can cause the most damage is frozen pipes.  Be prepared by knowing what to do before pipes freeze and how to handle the emergency if they do.