Man, has it been cold outside recently. With temperatures dropping well below zero in the past few weeks, residents in the Chicagoland area are facing major threats to home safety with frozen and burst pipes. When temperatures fall below zero degrees, pipes are incredibly vulnerable and cause incredible home damage. Since they can quickly turn into a very expensive problem for homeowners, the professionals at ServiceMaster Restoration by Simons have created this guide to give you a crash course in Pipe Freezing 101. Read on to learn how to prevent pipes from freezing, how to thaw pipes if they do freeze, and what to do if frozen pipes end up bursting and causing vast water damage to your home.
While you might think that Chicago homes would be built to withstand the cold, many do a poor job surviving the winter without significant damage. Within homes, there are areas where pipes are more likely to incur damage due to freezing temperatures. Some of these places include:
Once you’ve determined what pipes may be susceptible to freezing, you will want to take action to protect those pipes when temperatures plummet:
These tips may get you through a handful of cold nights, but in general, we recommend preemptively insulating pipes during your home winterizing process.
Insulating pipes is by far the best way to prevent pipes from freezing. Here’s how:
After you’ve identified what pipes need insulation, visit the hardware store and pick up your insulating material of choice. You can use:
Prepare the pipes. A simple wipe down with soapy water will do the trick.
Wrap the pipes with the material you’ve chosen. Be sure to cover all exposed surfaces. Secure the edges and corners with duct tape. If you use fiberglass insulation, wrap the insulation with sheets of plastic or duct tape as well.
If you have pipes in your crawl space, you may want to:
If you have a well, you can:
If you have an irrigation system or pool/pond lines, you should:
If you don’t have time to insulate pipes, consider using heat tape, a heat lamp or a low-watt bulb to heat the space where the pipes are located, but be mindful of fire hazards and install with care. Never use a blow torch or a heat gun when thawing pipes, and exercise care when using a heat lamp.
Sometimes, you won’t be able to protect your pipes until it is too late, and other times, pipes will freeze even despite your best efforts. If you suspect your pipes are frozen, you’ll need to take action right away. But how do you know for sure? Here are four major tip-offs:
Once you’ve confirmed a pipe is frozen, you’ll need to figure out where the frozen section is located. Oftentimes, an entire pipe won’t freeze – instead, just a section of a pipe will freeze ranging from a few inches to a foot. Since pipes with greater exposure are more likely to freeze, first check under the sinks, in the crawl space or basement, in the attic, along the main pipeline to and from your yard, and any other exterior pipes.
If one faucet is fine and another in a different room on the same floor isn’t, the pipe is frozen somewhere between the main line and that room’s piping. If the faucets work on one floor but not another, the frozen pipe is located where the floors separate. If no faucets work, a section of the pipe near the main water line may be frozen.
Can’t find the cold section of pipe? It’s probably hidden in the wall or yard. Outdoor water lines can be trickier to catch because you probably don’t use the pipes leading to a pool or hot tub, irrigation systems or outdoor hoses during the winter. Inspect outdoor lines once in a while if temps stay low.
Once you’ve found the section that’s frozen, you’ll need to carefully thaw the pipe without causing it to burst. Try the following:
Every once in a while, try running the faucet to see if you’ve been successful. When water is flowing once again, take steps (see above) to prevent the pipe from freezing again.
The danger of frozen pipes is cracking and bursting. Water expands when frozen, and pipes may crack under the pressure of the expansion.
Other signs of a leak include:
Unfortunately, a lot of cracked pipes happen in hidden places where you can’t see evidence of the leak. After thawing your pipes, you will want to keep an eye on your water bill. If you see a water bill spike, there’s a very good chance you’ve got a hidden leak. A restoration professional will use leak detection equipment to locate the leak.
When frozen pipes burst, you have an urgent and costly emergency on your hands. You’ll need to spring into action quickly after you notice a burst pipe in your home. Your priorities are first, to stop and/or minimize the potential water damage and then, to facilitate clean up. Here are three things we recommend doing immediately after a pipe bursts:
ServiceMaster Restoration By Simons is a MBE/WBE certified firm and family-run company serving Chicago, Oak Park, River Forest, and the North Shore. ServiceMaster Restoration By Simons provides disaster restoration services including Water & Flood Damage Restoration, Fire & Smoke Damage Restoration, Mold Remediation and a wide range of interior specialty cleaning including Hoarder & Clutter Cleaning, Post-Construction Cleaning, Carpet Cleaning and Upholstery Cleaning to residential and commercial customers residing in Chicago, Oak Park-River Forest and the North Shore. For more information, give us a call at 773-376-1110 or visit servicemasterbysimons.com.