Bursting pipes

How Do I Prevent Pipes Bursting in the Winter?

Snow in the winter can make things feel cozy and is pretty to see. However, winter brings freezing weather and even though we seek out our own warmth through layered clothing and firewood for the fireplace, it’s easy to forget that the structure and piping system of our home may be at risk.

How do pipes freeze?

Pipes are designed to move water through the home and property. When the weather changes and temperatures drop the water that has accumulated in the pipes may freeze. If this happens, the frozen water expands and causes extreme pressure on the pipes. This pressure can lead to cracks and bursting pipes. A crack in a pipe may not sound like much but it can do tremendous damage. In fact, a crack that is only 1/8 of an inch wide can seep up to 250 gallons of water throughout a single day. Whether burst or cracked, pipe damage can cause major structural and property damage which makes preventive measures extremely important.

Here are a few tips to protect your home:

  • Insulate pipes

    Pipes that are exposed are more susceptible to freezing in cold weather. Proper insulation in the winter months is key to protecting your piping system. Basements and attics may be areas in your home that need extra insulation. There are different ways to cover your pipes. One option is to add foam insulation and wrap them around the pipes all throughout your home. Wrapping the pipes up in the foam will act as a barrier from the extreme coldness. Other ways to protect your pipes include wrapping them in heat tape or thermostatically controlled heat cables. However, with these latter options, be sure they are top quality materials and installed up to standard.

  • Don’t turn off the heat

    Holidays in the winter months have many of us traveling to see friends and family. Most of us don’t necessarily want to heat an empty home but don’t be tempted to turn your heater all the way off. If you do, your pipes are most likely going to freeze. Having the heat on, even if it’s quite a bit lower than when you are home, can go a long way in preventing frozen pipes. Maintaining a home temperature of a little above 50 degrees Fahrenheit should be enough to allow your pipes to stay safe from damage. A higher heating bill will always be cheaper than the cost of water-damaged property!

  • Let faucets drip

    Often times when we see a faucet dripping we immediately think there is a problem or we see dollar signs and think of the water bill. However, one way to prevent frozen pipes is by allowing the faucet to slowly drip. This relieves pressure and keeps the water flowing. It’s when the pressure builds up that pipe damage occurs, so this one tip may be of tremendous help.

  • Open interior doors, but not the garage!

    When the family is getting ready to leave the house it’s wise to keep interior and cabinet doors open. Pipes tend to be behind cabinet doors, so keeping bedroom, bathroom and cabinet doors open will allow the heat to flow through all areas of the home. One exception would be the door leading out to your garage. This should always be left closed for an extra layer of protection.

  • Seal cracks and leaks

    Winter is a good time to add protection but also a time to inspect. If you find any cracks or leaks fill them with some caulk. Air leaks can be in a variety of places such as near dryer vents, windows, electrical wiring and of course in piping. If you come across leaks, take a caulk gun and carefully fill the spaces sealing them up and keeping the cold air out. It is vital to keep as much cold air out of the home as possible, even small air pockets that allow cold to come in can cause a chilly draft throughout the house.

A winter with frozen and/or bursting pipes isn’t for the faint of heart. Regardless of where your home is located, cold snaps can pose a real danger to our homes’ piping systems so it’s always best to practice preventative measures and be prepared.

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