How To Prevent Burst Water Pipes in the Winter

Nobody wants to deal with the gigantic mess and cost that a burst water pipe causes. On average, fixing a main water pipe costs $900. However, this cost can quickly escalate based on the repairs needed, how much of the pipe burst, and the damage caused to your home from the water.

So, how can you prevent burst water pipes? Below, we’re sharing our top tips for regularly checking and maintaining your water pipes so you can have peace of mind knowing that your pipes are properly maintained.

Signs You Have Frozen Water Pipes

If you have frozen water pipes already, call a plumber or take immediate action to prevent the water pipes from bursting.

Here are the most common signs you have frozen water pipes:

  • No running water when you turn your faucet on and off
  • Plumbing pipes have visible frost on them and frozen areas
  • Water pipes are bulging
  • Foul-smelling water
  • Water leaks and water drips from pipes
  • Experiencing a significant cold snap
  • Gurgling or banging noises coming from the pipes
  • Limited water flow despite the water being turned on

How Long Does It Take for Pipes to Freeze?

As a general rule of thumb, it needs to be below 20°F before you should be concerned about your pipes bursting. The freezing temperature typically needs to stay at this low temperature for six or more consecutive hours before you should be highly concerned about your pipes freezing.

However, this can vary based on how deep your pipes are within your home and your home’s insulation. Surprisingly, areas with warmer temperatures may be at a higher risk of burst pipes because the homes in these areas are often less insulated, so they are more vulnerable when temperatures drop. Extremely high temperatures and a large water demand can strain your pipes, causing them to burst. Fortunately, regular maintenance can protect your pipes during both hot and cold seasons.

Consider your home’s insulation levels before taking the following precautions to prevent your pipes from bursting.

Insulate Your Pipes

Water freezes at 32°F. However, the temperatures outside typically need to be 20°F or colder to freeze the waters in your pipes. Your home’s insulation keeps your pipes warmer than the outside temperature, allowing water to flow through them.

However, if temperatures drop below 20°F, your pipes may need additional inside insulation to prevent the water from freezing. Insulation is inexpensive and can be purchased at your local home store.

Add insulation to crawl spaces, attics, and basements, which tend to be the coldest areas of the house, to protect against frozen pipes. Pipes in these areas are at the highest risk, so taking this simple step can easily save you thousands of dollars in repairs in the future.

Turn on Cold Water

If you know which faucets are served by the frozen pipe or have pipes at a high risk of being frozen, turn on cold water from those faucets and allow it to drip through. Even a tiny amount of water flow can help the water in the pipes to stay moving, while you use other tips, like circulating warm air, to increase the temperature around them.

Leave the Heat On

It may not be the best option for your heating bill, but keeping your thermostat set at the same warm temperature day and night will keep your pipes warm. We also recommend keeping your house at a comfortable, warm temperature, no lower than 55°F, when you’re away or on vacation to avoid unpleasant surprises when you return home.

Check your HVAC system regularly to ensure it’s in good working condition and doesn’t need to be replaced or repaired. If you have an HVAC warranty, review it before making any repairs yourself or hiring a professional, as this may be covered under your policy.

Seal Cold Air Leaks

Regularly examine your pipes for air leaks, particularly around dryer vents, pipes, and electrical writing. Locate and mark these air leaks with masking tape, then follow up with caulking to seal the leaks. Layer the area with insulation to keep the pipe warmer in this spot to prevent the area from bulging or cracking again.

Install a Pipe Sleeve or Use Heat Tape

Products, like pipe sleeves or heat tape, are designed to insulate your water pipes and prevent them from bursting. These products can be installed as a DIY solution to insulate your pipes, but you may want to consult with a plumbing professional before installing them on your own. You may also use newspaper to keep your pipes insulated and water running.

Increase Warm Air Circulation

In addition to insulating your pipes, work to increase warm air circulation in your home. Most kitchen sinks are on an outside wall, so leave these cabinet doors open to let warm air circulate in the cabinet. Repeat this process with any sink cabinets that are mounted on an exterior wall.

Remove any dangerous chemicals or household cleaners under the sink to prevent small children or pets from getting into these products while the cabinets are open.

If you have water supply lines in your garage, keep your garage doors closed during extreme hot or cold weather. This precaution will help maintain a warmer temperature throughout your home and insulate your pipes.

Call a Plumber

When in doubt, call a plumbing professional to examine your water pipes and check your water pressure. A plumbing professional can closely inspect your pipes for any cracks, leaks, or bulges. They can repair any damaged areas, then insulate the pipes by installing pipe sleeves, heat tape, or additional insulation to keep the pipes warmer.

Closing Thoughts

Contact a plumbing professional if your pipes are already leaking, frozen, bulging, or bursting. The licensed plumber’s fee may be pricey, but a professional plumber will be able to repair the problem and prevent your pipes from causing further water damage to your belongings and home.

If you already have a home warranty, refresh yourself on what is covered, as it may cover the costs of pipe repairs or water damage.

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