home improvement

Pipe-Busting Cold! It's Not Too Late to Protect Your Pipes

With temperatures expected to dip to single digits in some places, experts say pipes could easily burst

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North Texans are anticipating extreme freezing temperatures to last over the course of several days. It's a bad mix that could cause water pipes to burst, resulting in costly damage to homes.

Experts say busted pipes are one of the most common and damaging issues seen this time of year.

According to the Institute for Business and Home Safety, over the past decade insurance companies have paid out $4 billion in claims for frozen, burst pipes.

Pipes on a home's exterior walls, especially those facing north, are most at risk.

We compiled some helpful information to help you prepare your home, thanks to tips from the American Red Cross and AdvantaClean, a local home restoration franchise.

TIPS TO PROTECT PIPES

  • Let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. As long as the water's flowing through the pipes, even at just a trickle, means there's less chance of it actually forming into ice. It's a misconception that hot water will take longer to freeze. Experts recommend running water from both the hot and cold taps if you can.
  • Insulate exposed water lines. You can buy insulated sleeves from the hardware store which slip easily around exposed pipes in the garage, attic, basement, or outside. Pipes located in these areas are more susceptible to freezing.
  • Seal leaks or cracks around pipes in the bathroom or kitchen. cold air can flood through the tiniest crevices. Insulate or caulk around pipes to keep them from freezing.
  • Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night. By temporarily suspending the use of lower nighttime temperatures, you may incur a higher heating bill, but you can prevent a much more costly repair job if pipes freeze and burst.
  • If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55° F.
  • Open the cabinet doors below kitchen and bathroom sinks to allow your home's central heating to help keep pipes warm.
  • If you have outdoor lines like sprinklers, drain them.
  • Detach your hose from outside spouts and bring it inside. See if you can shut off water supply to the hose spout.
  • Cover your outside spigot. Most home supply stores have hose spout covers you buy but if it's sold out, you can wrap a towel around it for a temporary fix.

IF YOUR PIPES FREEZE

  • If you turn on a faucet and nothing comes out but a trickle, you can assume it's a frozen pipe. Turn on all faucets to find out which ones are working. A small trickle of water from one faucet, while others are gushing, is a good indicator of a frozen line.
  • An infrared thermometer can help in locating a frozen pipe quickly and easily.
  • Experts advise to keep that faucet open and apply heat to the pipes below safely with a heating pad, hair dryer or portable space heater. Never put a heat source directly on the pipe, especially if it’s PVC. It could rupture the pipe. Do not use any open flame. 
  • Check for leaks and if you see any, shut off the main water valve to the house and close all faucets.
  • Pour a tablespoon of salt down the drain, but DON’T ADD WATER. The sudden temperature change could crack the pipe.
  • If you're not sure what to do, call a plumber or another professional to help.
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