How to Deal With Water Damage from Frozen Pipes
With winters getting more and more severe each year, it's now more important than ever to properly winterize your home. And that process includes preparing and regularly checking your plumbing pipes. Thousands of homes are negatively affected or even flooded each year and suffer extreme water damage from frozen pipes. As pipes freeze, they become much more brittle and susceptible to breaking and causing leaks. Those leaks eventually turn into water damage.
The best way to battle these issues is to learn what to do before they even happen. This article should teach you the basics of how to prevent this problem and how to handle it once it happens.
Why do frozen pipes burst?
During colder weather conditions, pipes that are more exposed to the elements can freeze over. This creates several ways in which a pipe can burst. Firstly, the frozen chunk of ice that is stuck in the area can increase the pressure inside the pipe by a lot. This is because all of the water that naturally streams through the pipe is now stuck behind the ice. If this goes too far, it can make the pipe burst on its own.
Additionally, if you try to thaw frozen pipe too quickly (ex. using boiling water), the difference between temperatures can make the metal construction of the fight a lot more brittle. This causes it to break, of course. Finally, if it is cold enough, the ice that has formed may be enough to break the pipe without the thawing process.
How to tell if a frozen pipe has burst?
It's very common for people not to even realize what's happened before it's too late. This is mainly because burst frozen pipes usually create hidden water leaks. Let's go through a short list of some telltale signs that your home is suffering water damage from frozen pipes:
- Strange sinkholes and ponding in your yard;
- Your walls have developed dark areas and damp streaks;
- You should also look up at the ceiling in case any pipes have broken there;
- None of your water fixtures are working, but your water meter is still registering flow;
- If you even have water pressure, it's fairly low;
- There is condensation and frost on the pipes under sinks;
- None of your faucets are running; Your toilet tanks don't start refilling after your flush.
Some prevention tactics
Since it's a pretty tall order to ask someone to affect the weather, it's better to focus our prevention tactics on the pipes themselves. These tips should effectively help you avoid water damage from frozen pipes rather than fixing them after they have already caused a problem:
- Thermostat - watch your thermostat and don't set it any lower than 55°F;
- Exterior pipes - insulate your exterior pipes (with the proper materials);
- The cabinet doors under sinks - leave them open and run fans to create warm air circulation;
- During trips - whenever you're leaving the house alone overnight, for example, when you're going on a trip, turn off your home's main water supply;
- Outside faucets and hoses - make sure to drain and wrap these faucets and to disconnect and drain hoses;
- Insulate your pipes - This is a financially hefty project, but there's a great return on investment;
- Repairs before winter - if your plumbing already has issues before the cold weather even comes, they'll only get worse. Make sure to fix those;
- The weather - Keep an eye on the local weather forecasts.
Don't forget to prevent damage to all of your property. This means that if your shed, garage, or even a storage unit that you're renting out has plumbing, those need to be taken care of, too, and protected from winter weather. So, for example, if you're renting a storage unit and you're liable to any damage inside, it's time to winter-proof your unit and avoid all that trouble.
Step-by-step for dealing with water damage from frozen pipes
We've discussed how to find a frozen pipe, as well as how to prevent one. Now, let's see what to do if water damage is created by burst pipes in your home. Here is a short step-by-step guide on what to do in this kind of situation. Remember that this process can vary depending on your home and the severity of the situation. So make sure to personalize it according to those.
1. Turn off the water supply
The first and most critical thing you have to do after a frozen pipe bursts is to turn off your water supply. The place where you will find shut-off valves depends on local regulations. However, in the most common scenario, the main shut-off valve will be located inside the house, opposite the place where the exterior pipe enters the home. Additionally, if the situation calls for you to turn off the water system of your entire property, you should look for an exterior shut-off valve.
2. Check your electrical wiring
After that, it's time to check the electrical system in your home. If you notice any outages, it's a sign that the water damage has reached your electrical wiring. If you notice any problems, make sure to call a licensed electrician right away. Before they arrive, make sure to turn off the electricity using the breaker panel or fuse box in your home. Until the technician fixes everything, you should proceed with caution in your home. Electricity and water create serious safety hazards.
3. Call professionals
After you have ensured that there will be no more leaking and safety hazards are mitigated, it's time to start thinking about your possessions. Your best course of action now is to get in touch with a trusted flood cleanup company. Additionally, you should also get the help of a professional restoration company. Professional restoration and cleanup companies can make dealing with water damage much easier.
Make sure to inform them about all of the damage that was caused right away. This way, they know what to expect and can prepare accordingly to give you the best service possible.
4. Fix leaks and document all the damage you find
This step is separated into three parts. Firstly, you should stop any further leaks by wrapping up and closing all of the damaged pipes and turning off the water supply to them. This is your temporary fix until a professional plumber comes to fix everything for the long term. This brings us to the second part, which is getting in touch with a professional to fix all the water damage from frozen pipes as soon as possible.
And finally, you should take as many pictures as you can of every problem you find. Cataloging an accurate record of all of these issues will help you and your restoration contractor handle paperwork and insurance claims.
5. Start drying your home out
After everything is back to normal, it's time to start drying your home out. Starting with the floors, the best thing you can do is buy a lot of newspapers. These are the perfect, cheap material for soaking up water. Just lay it over pools and ponds on your floor. And remember to put down a few layers. Additionally, you can make use of any fans or dehumidifiers you have. In case it's not too humid or chilly outside, opening up windows (in the problematic rooms) should help.
Finally, don't forget to check out your ceiling from time to time. If you see that your ceiling has a bulge somewhere, that likely means that there is a pocket of heavy water in there. You should poke a small hole in there and drain the excess water from the pocket. Don't forget how important it is for your home to dry properly. If you let areas remain moist for too long, you may end up with mold in your home.
To wrap up
Water damage from frozen pipes can be a real bother. Make sure to utilize these tips and follow the necessary steps to avoid a total disaster. Of course, everyone's situation is different, so don't be afraid to put your flare on the general plan of action. Make sure to find the location of the burst pipe as soon as possible, turn its water supply off, check whether your home is safe, get in touch with professionals right away, and start the drying process. If you remember to do all of this, and you do it properly, you might even survive a burst pipe without any complications. And most importantly, keep in mind that prevention is always the best option.