Every home can suffer water damage in the winter, especially from frozen pipes. Pipes suffer when exposed. As temperatures drop, water freezes along the interior of your pipes, putting pressure on the weakest areas. Exposed pipes in unheated basements, attics, or garages all make prime freezing territory. Even pipes within outer walls can freeze if your home lacks sufficient insulation. Any pipe that connects to an outdoor spigot faces additional risks. Frozen pipes make repairs tricky, because the leak may not be in the same place as the freeze. Fortunately, prevention is much easier.
How to Prevent Accidents
First and foremost, pay attention to the forecast. The colder it gets, the more likely you are to wake up with a flooded basement. If you’re in for an especially cold night, allow indoor faucets to drip. Moving water is less likely to freeze, and by leaving pipes open, you reduce the pressure that breaks your pipes.
When temperatures first drop, take a few precautions. Turn off exterior spigots through interior valves. Exterior spigots always freeze. It’s easy to find outdoor taps with long icicles hanging down when someone forgets to block off their connecting pipe. That ice travels inside the pipe, into your home.
A simple trick prevents most frozen pipes in unheated areas. Wherever you see an exposed pipe in your basement or garage, simply wrap it up snugly for the winter. Home improvement stores carry cheap sheets of insulation foam you can attach with zip ties, and if you’re extremely budget conscious, you can use layers of old rags and towels with duct tape instead. It’s like giving your plumbing a holiday sweater.
How to Repair Winter Damage
No matter how careful you are, accidents will happen. You can prevent many, but you can’t stop them all, especially if you live in an old house with dated plumbing. So if a pipe freezes, and you find water in your home, what should you do?
Time is of the essence. The longer it goes unattended, the more your home suffers from water damage. It’s easy to panic when you discover a lake in your living room, but just remember SPR: Shut off, Plumber, Remediation. Shut off your water and call a plumber immediately. While the plumber works on replacing the faulty pipe, check your home insurance. You should have water damage remediation coverage available. Water damage remediation removes standing water, dries out your home, and may even provide mold remediation. Remember, while mold loves muggy summers, it grows during the winter months, too. You may be tempted to fix water damage yourself, but without training, it’s easy to do even more damage to your home or yourself. Remember, your wiring goes through the walls, too, and outlets sit near the floor.
Most winter floods and the frozen pipes that cause them are preventable. While adding new insulation to your outside walls helps both your pipes and your heating bills, not all homeowners can afford such renovations. Fortunately, there are many small ways you can help your pipes make it through the cold intact.