Winter in North Central, MA is hard to predict. Between heavy snowfalls, record-low temperatures and the inevitable January thaw, we are regularly experiencing conditions from December to March that can wreak havoc on our homes.
Every winter 250,000 families in the United States see at least one room in their home damaged when water pipes freeze and burst. When frozen pipes burst, they can unleash gallons of water and cause thousands of dollars in damage to your home and personal belongings.
At Anderson, Bagley & Mayo Insurance (ABM) we want to take the time to make sure our clients in Leominster, Westminster, Gardner and beyond are prepared to take on the harsh New England weather with the proper information to protect their homes. Which is why, as your local insurance agents, we thought it was appropriate for us to share some ways you can hopefully prevent your pipes from freezing, but also what to do if you find them frozen.
What Pipes are at Risk to Freeze?
During the cold winter months, there are pipes in and outside your home that are more susceptible to freezing than others. These include:
- Any plumbing on the exterior of the home
- Pipes located in exterior walls with little or no insulation
- Exposed pipes in unheated areas of the home such as attics, basements, crawl spaces, or under bathroom and kitchen cabinets.
How to Protect Pipes Before they Freeze
There are preventative steps that you can take inside and outside your home to help protect your pipes from freezing.
- Drain water from swimming pool and water sprinkler supply lines.
- Remove, drain and store outside hoses.
- Close inside valves supplying water to outdoor faucets and keep outside hose spigots open to allow excess water to drain.
- Add insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces.
Three Ways to Prevent Frozen Pipes When the Cold Sets In
During cold snaps, your pipes are most at risk of freezing. These are extra precautions to take on those especially cold days and nights to help protect your pipes.
- Open kitchen and bathroom cabinets to allow warm air to circulate around the pipes.
- Let cold water drip from the faucet. This allows water to continue moving through the pipes and helps prevent against freezing.
- Leave the heat in your home set to no lower than 55° F.
What to do When Your Pipes Freeze
Sometimes you take all the necessary precautions and your pipes just can’t handle the cold. If we happen to be experiencing the perfect conditions for frozen pipes, experts say under 20 degrees, and you turn on your faucet only to find a trickle of water coming out, or no water comes out at all, it is fair to suspect a frozen pipe. Our first recommendation is, don’t panic! There are still steps you can take to reverse the effects without causing any damage to your home.
- Keep the faucet open. As you treat the frozen pipe, running water, no matter how little, will help melt the ice in the pipe while also creating a release for any pressure built up in the pipe.
- Locate the area of the water pipe that might be frozen by starting at the source of the problem and working backward. Likely places for frozen water pipes include pipes running against exterior walls or where the water service enters your home through the foundation.
- Carefully and slowly apply heat to the section of the pipe that is effected using an electric heating pad, towels soaked in hot water, or an electric hair dryer. Do not use a kerosene or propane heater, blowtorch, or other open flame devices. A blowtorch not only poses a serious fire risk, it can also make the water in the pipe boil and cause the pipe to explode.
- Apply heat until water pressure is restored.
- Check all other faucets. If one pipe is frozen it is likely that others may be frozen as well.
If you can’t locate the frozen area of the pipe or the problem has not been resolved with your best efforts, ABM recommends you call a licensed plumber right away.
What to do If Your Pipes Burst
When pipes freeze, the pressure between the ice blockage and the closed faucet can build up to the point where the pipe explodes. If the worst happens and you find a small leak or a big pool of water in your home due to burst pipes, take these steps immediately:
- Shut the water to your home off completely at the main water valve.
- Contact a licensed plumber to make repairs and restore the water.
- Document the damage by taking photos and call your local insurance agent immediately.
- Remove standing water with wet vacuums, and use specialty fans and dehumidifiers for drying.
- Discard damaged, water-soaked property and furniture.
The last thing the team at ABM wants is for you to be affected by the damaging effects of frozen pipes. We hope that list of precautions, tips, and remedies for frozen pipes helps you and your family stay safe and avoid any winter weather woes this season. If you have questions about your current home insurance coverage or frozen pipe damage, you can always get in touch with a member of our ABM team. And don’t forget to stay up to date with winter weather tips from Anderson, Bagley & Mayo Insurance by following us on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter.
Let us protect what matters most to you. Visit our website or give us a call today to learn more about your insurance options: 978-534-2800 (Leominster); 978-632-1098 (Gardner); 978-874-2921 (Westminster).