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Fire & Water - Cleanup & Restoration

Frozen and Burst Pipes: How to Avoid Water Damage

1/26/2021 (Permalink)

A frozen pipe with ice on it Frozen and burst pipes can cause costly water damage to your Bloomfield home. Here's how to prevent or stop the damage.

One of a homeowner’s most dreaded events is a frozen and burst pipe. The water damage that can occur can be tremendous, ruining both furnishings and structural elements of your home—and even create a serious mold problem.

In just the first 24 hours, 250 gallons of water can flow from a burst pipe, and cleanup costs can reach well over $50,000. Insurers know that the average residential water damage claim ranges from $10,000 to $15,000.

Unfortunately, here in central Connecticut, we are at the mercy of New England winters and their frigid temperatures. Pipes can freeze from being uninsulated and exposed to extremely cold temperatures or even merely freezing weather that lasts for days and days. Even a strong, constant wind can drive the temperature around your pipes down enough to allow them to freeze.

Here’s what happens when a pipe freezes:

  • Ice blocks the interior of the pipe and expands.
  • The ice creates pressure inside of the pipe that can reach up to 1,000 times the normal pressure.
  • The pipe bursts, not always at the blockage, but wherever the water pressure finds a weak spot.
  • Sometimes the leak starts when the pipe bursts, but not always. Sometimes nothing much happens until the frozen pipe starts to thaw and leak.

Unfortunately, when the leaking occurs out of sight—behind a wall or ceiling or in a basement, for instance—that burst pipe has a chance to create lots of water damage before you even know it.

Do You Have a Frozen Pipe?

While the frozen pipe may be hidden, certain clues may give it away. Your may notice a difference in your water flow:

  • Reduced water pressure in the sink or shower
  • Discolored water
  • No water flowing at all from a faucet
  • A toilet that doesn’t refill

Or you may notice some other signs:

  • Sounds: dripping, bubbling or whistling noises in pipes or behind walls
  • Smells: odd or unpleasant odors from drains or sinks
  • Stains: discoloration or water stains on walls or ceiling

And of course, any dripping, puddles or gushing water can be a clear sign of a burst pipe, too!

Any of these clues should spur you to hunt for a frozen or burst pipe. The culprit is likely to be near an exterior wall, at the foundation near where the water service enters your home, in the basement, attic, garage or crawlspace, or under sinks—all places that may not be particularly well insulated.

Start the hunt by turning on all the faucets one by one:

  • If none of the faucets work, your freeze is probably close to where the main water pipe enters your house.
  • Once you find a non-working faucet, work your way back toward the main water line to determine the general area of the blockage or leak.

With the location of the freeze narrowed down, now you can investigate further:

  • Look for an area of pipe that has a layer of condensation on it. There may even be a spot where the condensation has frozen.
  • Feel for temperature differences along a pipe. The coldest spot should be the ice blockage.

Prevent the Pipe from Bursting if You Can

Depending on whether there’s an active leak, you may have found the freeze in time to prevent most of the water damage. If the pipe is still frozen, take these steps:

  • Shut off the water to the whole house at the main valve and open up all the faucets in your home (this will relieve pressure).
  • Thaw the blockage by gently warming the pipe. You can use a hair dryer to start warming the pipe at the faucet or fixture and work your way back to the frozen spot. Or you can wrap an electric heating pad or towels soaked in hot water around the pipe.
  • If pipes inside an exterior wall are freezing, cut an opening in the wall to expose the pipes to the home's warm air. Wrap insulation around the pipe and up against the exterior wall. (Cover the hole later with a hinged door or panel, which will allow access during future freezes.)

Finding a Burst or Leaking Pipe

Your job’s not over when you’ve managed to thaw out a frozen pipe. Now you have to determine if that pipe has burst anywhere along its length or developed a pinhole leak.

  • Turn the water on at the main valve and listen for leaks or dripping. A sound of water rushing in your walls is an indication that you have a burst. In that case, shut the water off immediately. Likewise, if you see a flood or puddle of water, turn the main valve off pronto.
  • If there’s no obvious sounds or sights to indicate a burst pipe, investigate further to see if you have a smaller leak. Check seams and joints visually for small leaks. At the same time, run your fingers over these areas to detect the slightest moisture.
  • If you still haven’t found any leaks, go around your home and turn on each faucet in turn. You’re looking for low water pressure, which can indicate that you have a slow leak in that particular line.

You Have a Leak: Now What?

Small or large, that leak you have found needs to be dealt with promptly. Water damage leads to a complicated and costly cleanup, so you’re much better off preventing as much of the damage as possible.

Act quickly by taking some or all of these steps:

  • Consider cutting the electricity to your house if the leak is substantial or if water on the floor poses a risk of electrocution.
  • For a large leak, use a circular sleeve clamp lined with rubber to form a waterproof seal. Because you’ll need to have the correct size on hand, consider keeping different sized sleeve clamps on hand.
  • Make your own temporary patch out of a length of flexible rubber from an old radiator or heater hose. Slide it over the leak, place a small block of wood over the leaky area and clamp it with a C-clamp.
  • For a small pinhole leak, wrap good-quality duct tape tightly around the pipe to hold back the water until you can get a plumber to your home.
  • If your burst pipe is overhead, drill weep holes in the ceiling to drain out the water.
  • Clean up all standing water. This will keep you safer while helping to reduce the chances of water damage and mold growth.

SERVPRO Will Clean Up the Water Damage—Completely

The problem with water damage is that it’s challenging to clean up completely and if not done right, can lead to further problems down the road. You can attempt your own cleanup for minor leaks if the damage to your structure isn’t too severe and the items affected—furniture and property—aren’t too heavily damaged.

The key to effective water damage cleanup from a burst or leaking pipe, though, is to know if all the moisture is removed—and a homeowner can only guess at that. (Oh, and you need to get your home and property dried out within 48 hours of the leak, because that’s when mold can start to grow.)

With all that, your best bet is to call a professional water damage remediation company like SERVPRO of Bloomfield/Enfield. When it comes to water damage, we have seen it all! Our skilled damage restoration experts have the know-how, equipment and products to thoroughly clean and restore your home and property to its before-water-damage condition. Here’s our process:

Inspect and assess: We arrive promptly at your home and inspect and test to determine the extent of damage and how far the moisture has traveled. With this information we can devise a plan to ensure proper and complete restoration of your water damage.

Remove and extract water: We start the water removal process ASAP. Using powerful pumps and vacuum units, we quickly remove hundreds or thousands of gallons from your property, helping to prevent secondary water damage and mold growth.

Dry and dehumidify: Next, we use specialized equipment to remove the remaining water that is harder to access. Our professionals use room measurements, temperature and relative humidity to determine the optimal number of air movers and dehumidifiers needed to dry your home or business.

Clean and sanitize: We clean all the restorable items and structures damaged by the water using a number of techniques. Our professionals are trained to provide sanitizing treatments and to remove odors and deodorize your property.

Restore: Finally, we restore your home or business to its pre-water-damage condition. Restoration may involve minor repairs, such as replacing drywall and installing new carpet, or may entail major repairs, such as the reconstruction of various areas or rooms in a home or business.

If you’ve suffered water damage from a burst or frozen pipe, SERVPRO of Bloomfield/Enfield will work closely with you to be sure that all the damage is 100% cleaned up and repaired, that your possessions are completely restored and that the whole process is as smooth as can be—from pack-out through final move-in—even including coordinating your insurance claim.

Prevent Water Damage from a Frozen or Burst Pipe: Before a Freeze

Reduce the chances of a burst or leaking pipe after a freeze and avoid the resulting water damage to your home and possessions by taking some steps before and during a freeze. Here’s how to keep your pipes too warm to freeze in the first place.

Protect your pipes

Start with an evaluation of your vulnerable pipes in the areas of your house, such as your basement, attic, garage and crawl space, that are more exposed to cold. Also check under bathroom and kitchen sinks. Determine which ones are most at risk of freezing. Check for wear and damage, too.

Insulate those at-risk pipes in the attic, crawl space or other out-of-the-way place with un-faced fiberglass insulation (wear protective gear) or foam pipe sleeves. Or wrap the pipes with heat trace cables.

Keep the cold out and the heat in

These steps will help stop heat from escaping your home, potentially saving you money on your heating bills, too.

  • Seal up gaps around doors, windows and outlets with caulk.
  • Insulate larger areas in the attic or basement by screwing foam board to wood framing. Use rigid foam insulation to insulate foundation walls in the basement.
  • Install storm windows and replace broken or old windows with energy-efficient ones.

Use a smart leak/flood detector

Smart leak/flood detectors and water-shutoff valves let you immediately stop a flood of water, practically eliminating water damage. Connected to your home’s WiFi, the smart leak detector can send an alert to your smartphone if it detects a drop in water pressure. Some devices shut the water off automatically, while others let you do it remotely through the app.

Prevent Water Damage from a Frozen or Burst Pipe: During a Freeze

During a cold snap, check up on your vulnerable pipes and take these steps to minimize the chances of water damage.

  • Keep a slow drip of water trickling through the pipes.
  • Open doors to cabinets, vanities, closets and pantries to allow warm air to surround the pipes.
  • Use space heaters to warm up areas near vulnerable pipes.
  • Gently warm the most vulnerable pipes with a hair dryer, heating pad or cloths soaked in hot water.

If you know you’ll be away from your home during a freeze, take these steps to avoid returning to a burst pipe and a water disaster.

  • Keep your thermostat at 55° F or higher.
  • Shut off the house's main water valve.
  • Use a freeze-sensing system that will monitor your home's internal temperature, and set up a smart leak detector that will shut your water off at the first sign of a leak.
  • Ask a trusted neighbor to check inside your home once a week.

When you have suffered a water or other disaster at your home or business, call SERVPRO of Bloomfield/Enfield at 860-216-2785

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The team at SERVPRO of Bloomfield/Enfield has the people, skills and equipment to help homeowners recover from water damage and eradicate mold. Call SERVPRO of Bloomfield/Enfield at 860-216-2785 any time.

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