In the Washington, DC metropolitan area, temperatures can drop to below freezing during the winter. To prepare for this frigid season, it’s important to keep a few things in mind that can help reduce your chances of having water damage from frozen pipes. Depending on their location, some pipes will be at higher risk than others.
The Dangers of Frozen Pipes
When pipes freeze, you will immediately notice when nothing comes out of your faucet after turning it on. The water will have difficulty flowing through as the ice blocks the pipe.
As the water in the pipes freezes, it expands, adding more pressure to the inside of the pipes. Too much pressure will cause the pipe to tear, or burst, damaging the pipe as well as spreading water throughout the surrounding area.
If you are leaving town for a trip, always make sure that your HVAC is functioning properly so that the inside of your home isn’t exposed to freezing temperatures.
The good news is that frozen pipes won’t always result in them bursting, but there is always the risk. If you find them fast enough, you can save yourself from the stressful situation of cleaning up the mess.
Here’s how to locate and thaw frozen pipes.
- Identify which pipes are vulnerable to freezing:
Due to their location, some pipes face a higher risk of freezing than others. This is why it’s important to pay close attention to the pipes more exposed to the colder temperatures in the winter, taking all precautions to prevent them from freezing.
Pipes in Basements and Attics
Pipes located in attics and basements don’t have nearly the amount of exposure to the heat as other areas. So they are more prone to freeze, especially if they are used regularly, which is why it’s important to have them properly insulated.
Pipes in Exterior Walls
Pipes within exterior walls are closer to the direct cold but also may lack proper insulation. Faucets on the exterior of your home should be winterized. This is done by shutting off the inside valves that lead to these faucets, and leaving the faucets open so that any residual water inside can drain out.
- Signs of Frozen Pipes
Problems with Water Supply
If the water pressure is poor or non-existent, this is likely a sign of a frozen pipe. Similarly, if the water comes out in a trickle, this is another sign. This is due to the presence of ice inside the pipe blocking water from passing through.
Icy or Frosty Pipes
If you find any ice or frost on your pipes, it is more than likely that the pipe is frozen and must be thawed promptly.
If you do find a bulge in your pipes, it can be a sign of a frozen pipe. As ice may have developed and expanded, the pipe may have a bulge. This is particularly concerning because the pipe is already damaged, and it is likely to freeze again in the same area.
If water is not able to flow properly throughout the pipes and drain into the proper location, this can back up the pipes. This will result in a strange odor as it travels back up the pipe.
- Locating and Thawing Frozen Pipes
Check Visible Pipes
Not all pipes may be easily accessible, but those located underneath the sink and other areas are easier to find. Be sure to inspect all pipes, checking for bulges, frost, and ice.
Identify Problem Areas
A good way to determine the location of a frozen pipe is to test all the faucets in the house to ensure they are functioning properly.
If you find that none of the faucets are working, the frozen pipe is likely near the main water line. If none of them on one floor are working, the frozen pipe is located in between the floors. If none of the faucets in one room are working, the frozen pipe is located between the main water pipe and the split.
Identify the Frozen Area
After identifying the frozen pipe, you can narrow down the search by identifying the frozen area of the pipe. Follow along the affected pipe to identify the signs of freezing: ice, frost, bulging. If nothing looks out of the ordinary, find the areas where the temperature is lowest.
If you’re not able to find the frozen area, call a licensed plumber right away.
Thawing the Frozen Pipe
After finding the frozen pipe, you can thaw it in one of several ways. First, run the water by turning on the faucets (provided water can flow out of them). Even the faintest trickle can help to thaw the pipe. But even if nothing comes out, it’s helpful to keep the faucet open once the pipe does freeze.
Another way is to soak a towel in hot water and wrap it around the pipe. Electric heating pads also work when wrapping them around the pipe. Another heat source can include a hair dryer to blow on the frozen pipe. Just be careful not to use anything that produces an open flame as it poses a fire hazard.
Water Damage Restoration from Frozen Pipes
While it’s best to identify and thaw frozen pipes before they burst, they are often found after they burst. As soon as you find critical water or flood damage in your home, don’t hesitate to call for emergency water damage restoration services. Any hesitation in the restoration process will only result in extensive damage and higher cleanup costs.
For those living in the Alexandria, VA area, ServiceMaster NCR is available to provide water damage restoration services to return affected homes and buildings to their original conditions. Our technicians are available 24/7 to respond and extract any standing water, followed by setting up advanced air movers and dehumidifiers to remove the remaining moisture from the affected air spaces.
We will also apply anti-microbials to prevent mold growth during the drying process and we can provide mold remediation services should we find any pre-existing growth.
Finally, after completion of the drying process, we will advise on best practices to prevent the same issue in the future.
Give ServiceMaster NCR a call at (202) 318-2245 for emergency water damage restoration services in the event of a pipe burst in your home or building in the Alexandria, VA area.