If an unexpected problem came up with your home, would you rather spend $.50 or $18,000 to resolve the issue? If you have a pipe that is prone to freezing in your home, this could be a very real choice for you to make.
According to The Hartford Insurance Company, a frozen pipe that subsequently bursts can easily cause $18,000 worth of damage to your home by flooding your walls, carpets, furniture and personal possessions. However, your local hardware store likely sells material to insulate and protect that same pipe for as little as $.50. If you suspect we’re being a bit dramatic, check out this video from Chubb Insurance and The Today Show to see how fast a home can be damaged due to burst pipes.
On to the good news: this soaking situation can often be avoided with inexpensive, or even free prevention methods. Even if you don’t realize the severity of your problem until a frozen pipe has already burst, there are still steps you can take to protect your home and prevent further damage.
How to Prevent Frozen and Burst Pipes
- Know where to look: Exposed pipes, such as swimming pool lines and water sprinkler lines, are most likely to freeze, but pipes that run along exterior walls in the home with minimal insulation also tend to freeze easily. Some of the most common areas where pipes freeze are the basement, kitchen, and laundry room. Pay attention to any recently renovated areas of your home as well.
- Insulate pipes in unheated or underheated areas, such as crawl spaces, attics, and along outside walls using insulation, heat tape or thermostatically-controlled heat cables.
- Open cabinet doors to allow warm air to circulate around pipes.
- Seal drafts from windows, doors, patios with caulk or weather-proofing kits.
- Disconnect outdoor hoses and shut off the water supply to outdoor faucets.
- Leave a trickle of water running from your indoor faucets or showers overnight or during cold spells, as still water will freeze faster than flowing water.
- Keep your garage door closed if it has a water supply.
- Keep your thermostat set at the same temperature during the day and night during cold spells.
- Do not set your thermostat lower than 55° F while away on vacation. Ask someone to periodically check on your home, and the temperature in your home, while you are away.
- Consider investing in a water leak detector. Many are inexpensive, easy to set-up, and provide warnings or alerts to a potential water issue in your home while you are away.
How to Identify and Fix a Frozen Pipe
If you turn on a faucet and no water, or only a trickle comes out, your pipes may be frozen. Here’s what to do next:
- Turn off the main water valve, but keep the faucet in the on position. Water will begin to flow out when you have thawed the frozen pipe.
- NEVER use an open flame (lighter, candle, blowtorch, etc.) to thaw your pipes.
- Apply heat to the pipe by using an electric heating pad, hair dryer, heat lamp, or by wrapping the pipe in towels soaked in hot water.
- If your pipe is behind a wall, immediately turn the heat up in that area of your home, and aim a non-flammable heat source in the direction of the frozen pipe. Consider cutting a section of the wall out in a discreet area (such as a closet) to gain direct access.
- Continuously apply heat until you regain water pressure.
- If these tips do not solve the problem, contact a licensed plumber for professional assistance.
What to Do When a Pipe Bursts
Even by following prevention strategies, your pipes can still freeze and burst due to extreme cold. Here’s what you should do in your home or apartment in this situation:
- Turn off the water at the source.
- Turn off your electricity if necessary. Contact the building manager or landlord if you live in an apartment or condo and don’t have access to the electrical box.
- Call a plumber to begin repairing the ruptured pipes.
- Take pictures of the burst pipe and any damaged structures or property.
- Start removing water and dry affected areas as soon as possible to prevent mold and mildew buildup. Note: many insurance policies require homeowners to take immediate, reasonable, temporary action to prevent further damage to your property.
- Follow above tips to prevent other pipes in your home from bursting.
- Contact your insurance agent. They will be able to help you analyze how much damage has been caused by the burst pipes and help you submit a claim. They may also be able to recommend vendors to help properly clean your home after a water damage incident.
If you are still uneasy about the damage that could potentially be done to your home by a burst pipe, reach out to your insurance agent to make sure you have the coverage you need. You can talk to an Eastern Insurance account manager at (800) 333-7234 (Option 2), or reach out by email at email@example.com. You can also visit our website to learn more about the insurance coverage you have, or the additional solutions that Eastern Insurance can provide for you.