Personal Insurance Blog

How to Avoid Frozen Pipes in the Winter

Frozen pipes can cause interior water damage, leading to contractors traipsing through your home, an insurance claim, and possible increased insurance costs down the road. As cold weather settles in, these tips should help you prevent frozen pipes from sending water down your walls, onto your floor, and dripping into lower levels until they unfreeze.

Here are some tips on how to prevent pipes from freezing in a home or condominium:

  • Thermostat:  During a cold snap, set your thermostat at a minimum of 65 degrees. The extra few degrees will keep water in pipes moving and protect from the intrusion of a polar vortex into your walls.     

  • Main Water Valve:  Identify the location of the water shutoff in the event of a burst pipe.  When water is gushing it's important to know where to go to stop it.

  • Insulate:  OK, so this is a summer project, but if you have any work done be sure that all water pipes around the exterior of your house are insulated. This includes any crawlspace, basement, attic and exterior walls. It may be too late for this now, but make it a priority when you have insulation upgraded.

  • Garage:  Keep garage doors closed during extremely cold weather.

  • Cabinets:  Open cabinets, especially at night, if they hide bathroom or kitchen sinks that are up against an exterior wall. Open air from the house should circulate near those exterior walls.

  • Exterior Faucets:  Disconnect and drain all outdoor garden hoses, faucets, showers, etc. Keep the outside faucets open to allow them to drain and for any ice to expand freely.

  • Basement:  If you can, heat your basement during extreme cold weather.

  • Washing Machine:  If you plan to be away from the home during a cold snap, shut off the water supply valves to the machine. Replace hoses with metal cased hoses available at most home improvement stores.

  • Doors:  Install weather stripping at the bottom of each door to prevent cold drafts, or use an old fashioned door snake.

  • Lawn Sprinklers:  Turn off the sprinkler system and blow compressed air through the system...this is another important fall reminder.

  • Drip:  During extreme cold, turn kitchen and bathroom sinks to a slow drip

water damage water stain.jpg

The first sign of a freezing pipe is reduced water flow from a faucet. Check the faucets for water flow and pressure before bed and again in the morning. In the event a pipe begins to freeze:

  • Use a hair dryer, electric heater, heat lamp or electric heat tape to thaw the frozen pipe

  • Keep the faucet open when thawing to allow water to run and drain

In the event a pipe does burst:

  • Shut off the main water valve

  • If the pipe is a hot water pipe, also shut off water from water heater

  • Call your plumber to repair the damaged pipes

  • Call a water remediation expert to mitigate damage: here is a list of locally vetted mediation contractors;
  • Call Gordon Atlantic Insurance for additional coordination of water extraction, damage mitigation and initiating a claim if needed. You can also contact your insurance carrier directly by clicking HERE.

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To take this one step further, consider smart valve technology which will turn off your water even when you're not home.  And get a discount on your homeowners insurance with some carriers!

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