Sunday, January 7, 2018

Signs of Frozen Water Pipes and What to Watch For

When the temperatures drop, one major issue that could come up is a frozen water pipe.   Know why frozen pipes are so dangerous, the types of pipes that are most vulnerable to freezing and signs that a pipe is actually frozen.

Why Are Frozen Pipes Dangerous?

They can create an inconvenience but, more seriously, can cause major damage to your property.

Lack of Running Water– The most obvious danger of a frozen pipe is the inability to access running water.  This can interfere with your everyday tasks such as washing the dishes or taking a shower

Potential to Burst- The second problem that can occur when a pipe freezes is that the pipe actually bursts.  Once the actual water in the pipe freezes, pressure is created between the closed faucet and the blockage that can build up to a point that causes the pipe to burst.

Pipes That Are Vulnerable to Freezing

There are some pipes that are more vulnerable to freezing than others:

Southern Climates- Pipes that are located in climates which rarely see cold temperatures may be particularly vulnerable to freezing as we just learned with this Januarys freeze.  This is due to the lack of insulation around the pipes.  Since these areas rarely see temperatures around 32 degrees Fahrenheit, water pipes are more likely to be located in areas of the property which are not properly insulated against the cold. 

 •Exterior Walls- Water pipes that are located along the exterior walls of a home can be vulnerable to freezing.  This is because they may not have the adequate amount of insulation protecting them from the exterior temperatures.

Attics and Basements/Crawlspaces- Pipes that are located in attics, crawlspaces or in basements may also have a greater tendency to freeze.  These pipes may not receive the same amount of heat as the rest of the property.  If these areas are not used as living space, they also may not be properly insulated.

Signs of Frozen Pipes

There are a few clues which can help you determine if you have frozen pipes:

The Temperature Is Right- Pipes cannot freeze if it is not cold enough outside for them to do so.  Water does not freeze when it is 60 degrees Fahrenheit outside, and neither do pipes.  When the temperature falls to 32 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, you should begin to take precautions to prevent vulnerable pipes from freezing.

There Is Frost on the Pipe- For pipes that can actively be seen, such as those under sinks, you may be able to see frost that has accumulated on the exterior of the pipe.  This can serve as a warning sign that the pipe is frozen before you ever try to turn on the faucet.

No Water Is Coming Out of the Faucet- Another sign that you may have a frozen pipe on your hands is lack of running water.  If you turn on a kitchen or bathroom faucet and only a slight trickle of water or no water at all comes out, the water pipe leading to the faucet may be frozen.
Strange Smells- Another potential sign of a blocked pipe is an odd smell coming from a faucet or drain. If the pipe is partially or completely blocked, the only way the odor can escape is back up in the direction of your property.

Act Quickly

Once you are aware that a pipe is frozen, you must act quickly to thaw the pipe.  Depending on the location of the pipe and your level of expertise, you can attempt to thaw the pipe yourself or you can contact a licensed plumber to thaw the pipe for you.  It is imperative to thaw the pipe as soon as possible, because it has the potential to burst and cause extensive damage to your property.

How Much Does a Frozen Pipe Cost to Fix?

It is very difficult to estimate the cost of fixing a frozen pipe because each situation is so unique. Two factors that play a huge role in cost are the location of the pipe and whether the pipe has burst.

If you are able to easily access the blockage, such as a pipe under a kitchen sink, you might be able to thaw the blockage for free using hair dryer or hot rags.

If the blockage is buried in a wall, fixing the issue will become more expensive. You may spend a few hundred dollars cutting open sheetrock to find the problem or more than a thousand if you need to hire a plumber find and thaw out the blockage.

If a frozen pipe bursts and you have a flooding issue on your hands, you could be faced with thousands of dollars of damage. You will have to hire a plumber to fix the burst pipe and then you will have to deal with fixing any damage the water has caused inside your property.