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Built by Blue Sound Construction, designed by MaKe Design, photos by Alex Hayden

Frozen Pipes? Follow These Steps to Get Back in the Flow

Posted on Feb 22, 2018 in:
  • Maintain
  • Seattle Times HomeWork
  • Homeowners

Expert advice about what to do if you find a frozen pipe in your home and ways to prevent the occurrence in the future.

By Cash Walcome, Aquor Water Systems

As winter slowly crawls to an end here in Seattle, it's natural that some of us will stumble upon a frozen pipe. A frozen pipe isn't the end of the world, but a pipe that has burst can cause thousands of dollars in damage to your home.

According to Esurance Insurance Services, water damage due to burst pipes is the second-most filed insurance claim in the U.S.—with the average claim totaling close to $10,000.

Let's talk about the right steps to take if you find a frozen pipe in your household, along with ways to prevent this occurrence in the future.

The first indication that you have a frozen pipe happens when you first turn your water on. If you get just a trickle or nothing at all, suspect a freeze somewhere in the line. A freeze usually occurs in areas closest to the exterior wall. Hose bibs or outdoor spigots are notorious for freezing. A common mistake is to run the water to try and thaw out the lines. Do not do this—it won't help and can cause other sections to freeze.

Figure out if the piping is accessible in the spot you suspect frozen. If not, unfortunately, a plumber is necessary unless someone in the household has some relevant experience. If you have access to your in-wall plumbing, start by applying heat to the piping closest to the wall. This can be done by wrapping the pipe in towels soaked in hot water, a hair dryer, or by simply leaving a space heater close to the piping.

For the most part, your problem is now solved. But how do we prevent it from happening in the future? In some cases, it might just be the way your plumbing is structured, which would require a plumber consultation so that a long-term solution can be found.

One of the most common reasons a pipe freezes is because a hose is left attached to a hose bib throughout the winter. The sitting water in the hose freezes up the line all the way into the home. Removing the hose and checking to see that the hose bib is completely drained ensures that you won't have issues come spring. Sometimes a foam faucet cover is necessary for older hose bibs. You can also purchase a frost-free outdoor faucet, which provides extra protection against the elements.

Make sure the home is properly insulated. If the ambient temperature on the inside of your wall is freezing, there is nothing preventing the pipes from freezing. Look for places in the home that aren't usually heated, such as the garage and crawl space. An inexpensive infrared thermometer should determine whether those spaces have enough insulation.

A frozen pipe is a fixable problem, but it's also a sign to start taking precautions to avoid the headache of a burst pipe.

 


Cash Walcome is the president of Aquor Water Systems and a member of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties (MBAKS). HomeWork is the group's weekly column. If you have a home improvement, remodeling, or residential homebuilding question you'd like answered by one of the MBAKS's nearly 3,000 members, write to homework@mbaks.com.

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Photo courtesy Blue Sound Construction, builder; MaKe Design, architect; and Alex Hayden, photographer