How to Prevent Frozen Pipes & Pipe Bursts

The risk of frozen pipes and pipe bursts continues to grow as the temperature drops, and these two occurrences can cause significant property damage. There are, fortunately, ways to prevent pipes from freezing and bursting.

Water freezes when heat in the water is transferred to subfreezing air. After the water freezes, it expands and causes pressure to increase downstream, leading to a pipe burst. Therefore, to prevent the development of frozen pipes and pipe bursts, you must slow or stop the transfer of heat. To do so in an ideal world, you would not install water pipes in areas exposed to subfreezing temperatures. They would instead be placed in heated spaces, but this may not be possible in homes constructed in the past.

If pipes are exposed or in unheated areas, such as in a garage, attic, basement, or crawl space, it is imperative you wrap or fit the pipes with insulation sleeves. The installation of UL-listed heat tape is another option. You should also insulate pipes in cabinets on exterior walls. You may want to keep your kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors open during the cold months so that the warm air can circulate around the pipes. You could also use a fan to increase the circulation of warm air in said cabinets. If the weather becomes extreme, we suggest you allow any faucets in unheated spaces to drip to prevent pipe bursting by relieving the pressure built up between the faucet and ice blockage.

You should also wrap exterior faucets. All hoses should be disconnected from exterior spigots, and the exterior faucet should be left open. It is equally important to ensure all in-ground sprinkler systems are drained.

Additionally, we recommend tightly sealing cracks or holes in the exterior walls and foundation near any water pipes with caulk to prevent the penetration of cold air. Windows should be sealed with caulking and weather stropping, and doors should also be sealed with weather stripping. If there are water supply lines in the garage, you should keep the garage doors closed as much as possible during the colder months.

If you intend to go on an extended vacation, do not forget to shut off and drain your water system. It is vital you keep the heat set to at least 55 degrees as well.

If you suspect a frozen pipe, you can check for one by turning on each water supply faucet individually to verify the presence of a steady stream of water. A frozen pipe may exist if the water is slowed or if there is no flow at all. If that is the case, you should use a blow dryer to heat the supply line once you identify the blockage, which is typically the area with the most exposure; the faucet should be left open while you do so. You should continue to heat the pipe until the water flow becomes steady.