Sarah grew up in an old house where a previous owner had done some remodeling and added an additional downstairs bathroom with a shower, which was very convenient at first. Winters were a bit tricky, however, as the pipes passed through an exterior wall and an uninsulated part of the basement ceiling. During the family’s first winter in the house, they noticed the shower often would not drain properly, and they soon made the unfortunate discovery that a pipe in the basement had not just frozen but burst as well. Fortunately, they caught the problem quickly, and the water damage was minimal, but not every frozen pipe story has a happy ending. In this month’s blog, as we wade through the coldest part of winter, we look at what you should do when water emergencies strike.
As a rule of thumb, once temperatures start dropping below 20 degrees, pipes are at risk of freezing. When water freezes inside your pipes, it expands, which can put enough pressure on the pipes to cause leaks and potentially spray gallons of water into your walls, ceilings, and floors. The water damage from a burst pipe may be immediately noticeable, but depending on the pipe’s location, you might not discover the leak until it has caused far more serious harm.
What are the signs of a frozen or burst pipe?
- Standing water is the most obvious sign, but you should also be on the lookout for water marks on walls or ceilings, peeling or bubbling paint, and discoloration on ceiling panels. If the damage has gone unnoticed for a time, you may also find mold or wood rotted through.
- A sudden increase in your water bill may be another sign of a leak caused by a burst pipe. If you see an unexpected jump without a corresponding increase in usage, make sure to check the house for other signs of a leak.
- Changes in water pressure are another sign of a frozen pipe. The pipe may not be frozen solid through, but ice buildup can create blockages that affect how water moves through, causing an uneven stream.
- Other inconsistencies in your water may point to a frozen pipe as well, from strange smells, to unusual noises when the water is running, to discoloration of the water itself.
What should I do if I discover water damage from a burst pipe?
First and foremost, it is important to take quick action to prevent further damage:
- Make sure family and pets avoid the affected area, especially if there are signs of mold.
- If you can, shut off the water to minimize any leaks. In addition, if possible turn off the electricity as well.
- Find your emergency contacts and reach out to two key helpers: your local plumber and KleenRite. Your plumber will be able to get the leak itself under control, and our 24/7 emergency response team can assess the water damage and start measures to dry out and restore the damaged area.
- First off, you will want to capture photos of all damaged items, as your insurance company will need to see these. Take as many pictures as possible, from a few different angles, so that you have thorough documentation of the initial damage.
- If there is any wood or metal furniture in the affected space, try to lift it up off carpeted areas by using aluminum foil, paper plates, or anything plastic. Getting a barrier between the furniture and flooring will help eliminate furniture stains and rust stains, cutting down some of the cleaning work that will need to be done later.
- If any valuables, books, family heirlooms, or other delicate items (particularly anything paper, wood, or fabric) are stored in the affected area, move them somewhere high and dry.
- Call your insurance company to check on your coverage for this type of incident.
What can I do to keep my pipes from freezing?
- Start by identifying pipes that may be prone to freezing (running through areas such as crawl spaces, exterior walls, garages, basements, or unheated rooms).
- Strengthen your defenses against those sources of cold air by insulating against drafts: seal cracks and openings around windows and doors.
- Wrap vulnerable pipes with heat tape or other insulation.
- Keep your thermostat set to a consistent temperature—even if you will be away, keep the temperature set to at least 55 degrees.
- Let cold water drip from a faucet that is served by exposed pipes. That little trickle can help prevent freezing.
Understanding what pipes are at risk of freezing and taking steps to keep them insulated can go a long way toward saving you stress, energy, and money down the line. Knowing what to do and who to call can make the ordeal much more manageable. A burst pipe is no picnic, but if the worst happens, KleenRite’s 24/7 Emergency Response team is ready to spring into action 24/7.