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Fire & Water - Cleanup & Restoration

Frozen Water Pipes

1/8/2018 (Permalink)

Much of the country recently experienced a severe cold snap.  And as temperatures began to rise this past weekend, we at SERVPRO were inundated with calls to clean up water damage at both commercial and residential properties due to burst water pipes.  It may seem counter intuitive.  The temperatures are rising, so why are pipes bursting now?

Without getting into the chemistry of water and what causes it, suffice it to say that water expands as it freezes.  While this expansion can cause a weak pipe to burst, it's usually not the direct cause of a burst pipe.  Pipes usually burst where little or no ice has formed.  That's because the break is usually the result of increased pressure in the pipe and not expanding ice.  Pipes burst when water thaws and begins to flow, but then runs into other, still-frozen parts of the pipe and builds up pressure.  

What can you do to prevent burst pipes?  The simple and most direct answer is to keep your water pipes warm and prevent them from freezing.  Typically homes in Wisconsin are built with the water pipes located on the inside of the building insulation, which protects the pipes from subfreezing weather.  That said, if your homes insulation is inadequate, you may have a problem. Also consider that any hole on an outside wall for things like television or cable wires, phone wires, or even furnace exhaust vents, can let cold air in.  These openings need to be properly insulated as well.  If you're building a new home, or doing a home remodel project, it's also a good idea to locate your plumbing pipes on inside walls versus outside walls whenever possible. 

To further protect your water pipes, it's a good idea to insulate the pipes themselves.  Most hardware stores or home improvement stores carry foam rubber or fiberglass sleeves that most homeowners can install themselves.  Plumbing supply stores and insulation dealers carry pipe sleeves that feature extra-thick insulation, as much as one or two inches thick.  These sleeves will obviously cost a little more but may be worth the extra cost.  

One last thing to consider.  The best insulation in your home, and on your pipes, may not be enough to protect your pipes from freezing during a particularly cold spell like the one we recently had, if your furnace goes out while you are out of town on vacation.  If you plan to be out of town during the winter months, you may want to consider purchasing a remote temperature monitor.  A remote temperature monitor is a digital thermometer that tracks ambient changes in temperature.  The sensor then streams the temperature data using wireless technology such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or GSM to your computer, tablet or cell phone.  This way you can be alerted to any problems at home, even when you're away, so that you can send someone to address the problem before it's too late.  Remote temperature monitors are not terribly expensive.  They can be purchased on-line or at hardware stores and home improvement stores for as little as $50 or less.

And as always, if one of your water pipes bursts and floods your home or business, the experts at SERVPRO of Appleton are here to help.    

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