Water damage prevention: pipes that burst after freezing temperatures

Many of us learned as far back as grade school that when water freezes it turns to ice and expands. Yet so many continue to neglect plumbing lines in the home by not thinking about a simple scientific principle we first learned as children. What many fail to realize is that plumbing lines located within uninsulated walls or under the property where heating systems don’t reach are at risk. When temperature plummets below freezing, water in the pipes will freeze…and expand.

Water pipes are not made of rubber. They are typically made of metal or plastic and aren’t designed to be flexible. When water contained in pipes freeze, the pressure inside is similar to inflating a balloon or tire with too much air. Naturally, the object can’t continue taking more pressure and bursts.

Even before a weather or news alert informs us about oncoming freezing temperatures, there are measures that should be taken to begin prevention of damage to water pipes. The first is to check all areas of the property where lines will be exposed to severe cold. This includes the basement, attic, garage, and crawlspace. All water lines should be wrapped in insulation. Also, if possible, block any openings in the area where cold air can enter.

When extreme drops in temperature is approaching, start by maintaining a warm temperature throughout the home. Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors under the sinks to allow the warm air in where water lines are exposed. Also, place portable heaters in areas containing pipes where the home’s heating system cannot reach. Don’t worry about the higher cost of heating, because you will end up saving a substantially larger amount by avoiding water damage in your home if a pipe bursts.

Lastly, be sure to run a slow drip from all faucets and shower heads. Water moving through the pipes, even at a very slow rate, will help prevent freezing.

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