It’s winter now and that means it’s FREEZING COLD! Literally! These very low temperatures can be troublesome when it comes to the pipes in your home. Frozen pipes bursting are among the highest rated complaints people have when it comes to damage restoration this time of year.
When is it Cold Enough to Freeze?
The onset of freezing occurs when temperatures reach 20 degrees Fahrenheit or below.
Why Pipes Burst
Ice forming in a pipe does not typically cause a break where the ice blockage occurs. It’s not the radial expansion of ice against the wall of the pipe that causes the break. Rather, following a complete ice blockage in a pipe, continued freezing and expansion inside the pipe causes water pressure to increase downstream – between the ice blockage and a closed faucet at the end. It’s this increase in water pressure that leads to pipe failure. Usually the pipe bursts where little or no ice has formed. Upstream from the ice blockage the water can always retreat back towards its source, so there is no pressure build-up to cause a break. Water has to freeze for ice blockages to occur. (Pipes that are adequately protected along their entire length by placement within the building’s insulation, insulation on the pipe itself, or heating, are safe.)
Usually, houses are built with the water pipes located on the inside of the building insulation, which protects the pipes from subfreezing weather. Extremely cold weather and holes in the building that allow a flow of cold air to come into contact with pipes can lead to freezing and bursting. Pipes in attics, crawl spaces and outside walls are all vulnerable to freezing, especially if there are cracks or openings that allow cold, outside air to flow across the pipes.
Fixing the Problem
In existing houses, a plumber may be able to re route at-risk pipes to protected areas, although this may not be a practical solution. If the latter is the case, vulnerable pipes that are accessible should be fitted with insulation sleeves or wrapping (which slows the heat transfer), the more insulation the better. It is important not to leave gaps that expose the pipe to cold air. Hardware stores and home centers carry the necessary materials, usually in foam rubber or fiberglass sleeves. Better yet, plumbing supply stores and insulation dealers carry pipe sleeves that feature extra-thick insulation, as much as 1 or 2 inches thick. The added protection is worth the extra cost. Cracks and holes in outside walls and foundations near water pipes should be sealed with caulking to keep cold wind away from the pipes. Kitchen and bathroom cabinets can keep warm inside air from reaching pipes under sinks and in adjacent outside walls. It’s a good idea to keep cabinet doors open during cold spells to let the warm air circulate around the pipes. Electric heating tapes and cables are available to run along pipes to keep the water from freezing. These must be used with extreme caution; follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully to avoid the risk of fire, and check to make sure the product conforms to UL 2049. Tapes and cables with a built-in thermostat will turn heat on when needed. Tapes without a thermostat have to be plugged in each time heat is needed, and may be forgotten.
We hope the above information provides you with valuable information that is useful. Professional (IICRC Certified) companies like ours, Anchor Water Damage & Restoration, are here for you. We will help remediate your problem quickly and effectively.