Frozen pipes can and do occur during winter. Plumbing in normally warmer climates is often more vulnerable to pipe bursting during strong cold spells. While corrosion, clogs, pressure, and pipe movement can cause them to fail as well, there are ways you can prevent pipes from bursting in your Houston home due to cold conditions.
How to Prevent Pipe Bursting
Cover Up Exposed Pipes
If your pipes are covered and insulated, you can prevent an emergency, or the need to thaw out the pipe. Pipes located outside, within exterior walls, or in the basement, attic, or other unheated space, can be protected with fiberglass or foam insulation. A towel, plastic wrap, or newspaper can suffice if freezing temperatures happen only on rare occasions. Heat tape is another option; you can apply it yourself or have a skilled plumber do so.
Insulate Unheated Spaces
Pipes in heated living areas and bedrooms are exposed to more warmth, preventing them from freezing. You can protect pipes in unheated spaces by insulating them. This keeps them warmer and protected against freezing temperatures and bursting. The extra insulation can also contribute to more even heating in your home and improved energy efficiency.
Run Some Water Faucets
Keep a faucet or two open during times of extreme cold. Turn the faucet on just slightly, so it runs slowly, but just enough to keep water moving through the system. This prevents pipe bursting because moving water does not easily freeze. A good rule of thumb is to start with the faucet farthest away from the water source, so water is active across more of your plumbing system; also, open taps served by exposed plumbing.
Open Cabinet Doors in Your Kitchen/Bathroom
By opening these cabinet doors, heated air from inside your home can reach pipes within. This is especially useful for cabinets located along exterior walls. Since pipes there are more prone to freezing, the added warmth can be particularly beneficial.
Put Away the Garden Hose
Disconnect the hose from the outside faucet, and let the water drain from the hose bib. Otherwise, water trapped inside the bib and hose can freeze, break the fixture, and potentially lead to additional plumbing damage.
Seal Air Leaks and Drafts
Air leaks can occur with drafty windows and doors. They also occur where pipes, wiring, and dryer vents pass through walls. Applying caulk or insulation can help keep cold out and away from pipes. Even the tiniest opening can let in enough cold air to freeze them, especially in extremely cold temperatures.
Do Not Raise the Thermostat Temperature
There are guidelines for raising the thermostat a few degrees to save energy. But during a cold snap, adjusting the thermostat can have unintended consequences. A more constant temperature actually keeps pipes warmer and prevents pipe bursting. Consistency also makes it easier for your furnace to run, which can reduce the rate of wear and tear on the unit.
What to Do When a Pipe Does Burst
Frozen water expands with extreme force. Since ice can form anywhere, a weak spot can make it harder to prevent pipes from bursting. If you experience a burst pipe:
- Shut off the water main.
- Open a faucet to relieve water pressure.
- Contact a plumber immediately.
- Start cleaning up standing water (using a bucket, mop, and shop vacuum if you have one).
- Put a piece of rubber over the leak.
- Clamp the broken pipe (a C-clamp over the rubber and a block of wood is a temporary fix).
- Cut out and replace the broken section of pipe.
If you find a frozen pipe, turn up the heat. You can use a hair dryer to heat a cold pipe in an unheated room. Run the faucet at the same time; the flow will increase as the ice melts.
However, fixing a burst pipe requires some plumbing expertise. If you don’t have experience in this area, contact your local plumber right away.
Contact Village Plumbing and Air
We have been serving the Houston area since 1946 and specialize in fixing leaks and broken pipes. If our tips for preventing pipe bursting haven’t worked, we provide 24-hour emergency service. Call 713-678-0483 for prompt service and fast resolutions that can avoid more serious damage to your plumbing and home.