The cycle of temperatures dropping drastically, warming a few days later, and then dropping again, can lead to the freezing of water pipes in your home. Did you know a 1/8” crack in a water supply line can leak 250 gallons of water into your home in a day causing severe damage? With over 250,000 homes in the U.S. damaged by freezing water pipes each year, it’s good to understand how and why pipes freeze. There are three main causes for a water line to freeze in a home:
1. Quick drops of temperature and extended periods of extreme cold.
2. Poor insulation in areas around water lines.
3. Thermostats set too low.
We can’t control the weather, so let’s focus on insulation and internal home temperatures.
Water pipes should never be installed in unconditioned spaces of the homes such as crawlspaces, attics, or exterior walls. If there are pipes in these locations, it is best to relocate them if possible. If relocation is not an option, the pipes should be insulated properly. This does not mean wrapping the pipes in foam or other forms of insulation. The best way to insulate the pipes is to place them within the thermal envelope (see diagram below) of the home. Having the pipes in the “thermal envelope” allows the warm air of the home to maintain the temperature around the pipes while the home’s insulation keeps the cold temperatures away from the pipes. In addition, air sealing the home’s “thermal envelope” can reduce heat loss in the home and keep extreme cold air from reaching the pipes in your home. Air sealing is filling or sealing any holes or cracks that may allow outside air to reach the pipes.
There are two ways to prevent frozen pipes using your thermostat. The first way is to keep the thermostat set at the same temperature day and night. Many people lower their thermostat at night while they are sleeping. This is also when temperatures are at their lowest so, keeping the home warm overnight will help to combat the cold temperatures outside. Secondly, if you go away for an extended period of time, do not lower the temperature on the thermostat below 55 degrees.
Also, if you go away over the winter to escape the cold, close the main water valve in the house and have a neighbor check on your home daily while you are away. Remember 250 gallons per day times the number of days you will be away will equal an overwhelming amount of damage.
What do I do if I have a frozen water pipe?
If you happen to have a frozen water pipe in your home, how would you know? You may get up in the morning and not have running water in a part of your home. This could be from a frozen water line. The first thing to do is turn the main water valve off and open the faucets in your home. This will allow warm air from the home to enter the pipes. Do not apply direct heat to the frozen line as the extreme temperature change can make the pipe more susceptible to cracking. As the water in the pipe thaws, it may begin to leak noting that the pipe itself was cracked from the pressure of the freezing water.
If you find you already have a puddle of water in your home, it is likely that the freezing water cracked your pipe. Again, your first step will be to turn off the main water valve in your home to stop the flow of water. If you have sustained damage to the structural components of your home (floors, walls, etc.) our advice is to contact your homeowner’s insurance company to report the damage. Your next step should be to call our sister company, The Flood Department at 301-829-2600. Flood Department specializes in water and fire damage mitigation and works directly with insurance carriers in the area. It is your right to use the mitigation company of your choice. The Flood Department will mitigate the damage, document the process with photos, and work with your insurance adjuster to make sure that the damaged area is properly cleaned to prevent mold growth.
While the mitigation is taking place, Mauck Construction & Renovations can begin to work with your insurance adjuster on the estimate to rebuild the damaged area. An initial estimate may be provided by the adjuster. A Mauck representative will thoroughly review the estimate and note any items that have been overlooked by the adjuster, as they are not construction professionals and may not know all that is needed to complete the project. Our focus will be to make sure that your line item insurance claim covers all necessary work to be completed to return your home to its pre-loss condition. Once the mitigation is complete and we have worked the insurance company to agree on the scope of work, Mauck can begin the process of restoring your home.
It is our hope that you never experience the chaos and disruption to daily life that a water damage can cause. However, if it happens to you, know that help is only a couple of phone calls away with The Flood Department and Mauck Construction & Renovations.