Frozen Pipes Create Serious Problems
Learning how to prevent pipes from freezing is an essential skill for homeowners who live in areas that experience cold weather. Frozen pipes in your house can lead to burst pipes, which means expensive water damage that can render your home unlivable. Fortunately, there are several simple ways to help ensure that your home is ready for the onslaught of winter's worst conditions.
Prevent Frozen Pipes With These 5 Important Steps
- Wrap exposed pipes with heat tape. Available at most hardware stores, heat tape is a rubber insulated wire that plugs into a electrical outlet and warms to the touch when activated by an integral thermostat. Wrap the heat tape around the entire length of exposed pipe, leaving about 2 inches of space between each wrap. It is important to not overlap the heat tape and to cover the wrapped heat tape with pipe insulation. Cover exposed pipes in areas of your house that are unheated, like garages and crawl spaces.
- Use space heaters in problem areas. Rooms in your home that are under-heated or uninsulated, like utility rooms or laundry areas, can weather a short cold snap by heating them with a small space heater. If there are pipes under vanities, open the cabinet doors so that the heat can reach them. Make sure that there is nothing flamable near the heater and that you follow all precautionary safety measures listed in the heater's instruction manual.
- Protect exterior hose bibs and drain outside water lines. Make sure any irrigation lines or exterior plumbing pipes to hot tubs or swimming pools have been drained before the cold season begins. Disconnect garden hoses and place store-bought insulated covers over all hosebibs and outside faucets.
- Make sure no plumbing lines run within exterior walls. Preventing frozen pipes begins with knowing where your house's plumbing lines are located. Relocate any plumbing lines that are within exterior walls. If plumbing lines can not be relocated, consider re-plumbing them with Pex piping and situate them on the interior side of the wall insulation.
- Keep the faucet running. If cold weather is upon you and none of the above steps can be taken immediately, open your faucets and let the water run during the night. Obviously this is a temporary measure, but a night's worth of wasted water is better than having to defrost frozen pipes in the morning.
Remember, it is important to prepare your house for cold weather before it arrives and to learn how to prevent pipes from freezing before it happens.
Marshall McCauley is a builder and freelance writer. He writes from his farm on the Bitterroot River in Montana.