Even if you’ve taken the right preventative steps, extreme weather conditions can still harm your pipes. Here are a few more steps you can take:
A trickle of hot and cold water might be all it takes to keep your pipes from freezing. Let warm water drip overnight, preferably from a faucet on an outside wall.
Keep your thermostat set at the same temperature during both day and night. You might be in the habit of turning down the heat when you’re asleep, but further drops in the temperature—more common overnight—could catch you off guard and freeze your pipes.
Open cabinet doors to allow heat to get to un-insulated pipes under sinks and appliances near exterior walls.
Before you skip town
Travelling in the winter months might be good for the soul, but don’t forget to think about your pipes before you leave. What can you do?
Set the thermostat in your house no lower than 55°F (12°C).
Ask a friend or neighbor to check your house daily to make sure it’s warm enough to prevent freezing.
Shut off and drain the water system. Be aware that if you have a fire protection sprinkler system in your house, it may be deactivated when you shut off the water.
If your pipes do freeze
What if your pipes still freeze, despite your best preventive measures? First step: Don’t panic. Just because they’re frozen doesn’t mean they’ve already burst. Here’s what you can do:
If you turn on your faucets and nothing comes out, leave the faucets turned on and call a plumber.
Do not use electrical appliances in areas of standing water. You could be electrocuted.
Never try to thaw a pipe with a torch or other open flame because it could cause a fire hazard. Water damage is preferable to burning down your house!
You may be able to thaw a frozen pipe using a hair dryer. Start by warming the pipe as close to the faucet as possible, working toward the coldest section of pipe.
If your water pipes have already burst, turn off the water at the main shutoff valve in the house; leave the water faucets turned on. Make sure everyone in your family knows where the water shutoff valve is and how to open and close it.
Plumbing related water damage is a common occurrence. Often plumbing leaks are designated as minor problems or annoyances rather than serious concerns in need of professional attention.
houzz.com published an informative piece on plumbing repairs and the many reasons hiring a licensed plumber is proactive prevention.
The most important thing to remember to include as part of fall yard work is to prepare outdoor faucets for winter. Remove hoses and be certain exterior water spigots are shut off. It may be a good idea to have a plumber look at exterior spigots to be certain there is no threat of a pipe break.
Fall is a good time to trim landscaping to keep plants away from buildings and foundations. Gutters, downspouts and extensions should be cleared and cleaned so water will flow freely through them.
Wet basements and wet crawl spaces present problems for the entire building. The key to improving basement moisture is controlling relative humidity.
Moisture vapor rises from dirt floors, on convection driven air-flow, to upper levels. Water that has penetrated foundations will also increase relative humidity and affect the entire building. Basement waterproofing with quality materials will prevent moisture from penetrating encapsulation and increasing humidity.
Elevated humidity increases moisture content in wood building materials. Wet organic building materials (wood, plywood, joists, beams, sills, sill plates, etc.) provide an environment necessary for mold growth. Dry basements and solutions to control wet basements and crawl spaces are fundamental in improving indoor air quality. Healthy indoor air quality begins in the basement or crawl space and moves upward.