burst pipes Winter weather is coming, whether we’re ready for it or not. While preparing your home for the cold, consider doing what you can to prevent pipes from freezing and bursting. Burst pipes are a real risk, and prevention is much easier (not to mention cheaper) than cleaning up the mess and repairing the damage afterward.

How do burst pipes happen?

Burst pipes are one of the most common causes of property damage, but why does this happen? When water gets close to freezing, it expands, and this increases the pressure inside pipes. When that pressure has nowhere to go, the force can break the pipe itself. Once temperatures get down to 20 degrees Fahrenheit outside, there is cause for concern. In general, the pipes at greatest risk will be those that run along exterior walls, or through unheated interior areas in your home. It’s always easier to prevent pipes from bursting than to clean up the mess afterward. If you can, take these steps to minimize your risk of bursting pipes this winter.

What homeowners can do ahead of time

Take care of these things, in the fall if possible, before the cold weather hits.
  • Seal any external leaks where heat may be escaping your home (smaller leaks can be caulked, although some homes may need contractor help to seal things up properly).
  • Add insulation to attics and other places where heat may be escaping.
  • Drain water from sprinklers, hoses, etc.
  • Close inside valves that supply water outside, but leave the outside valve out so any remaining water can escape.

What to do during a cold snap

Once the really freezing temps hit, you’ll want to take extra steps to protect your pipes.
  • Keep garages, and other unheated areas with water supply lines running through them closed to keep in as much warmth as possible.
  • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors. It may look silly, but letting the warmer air circulate around the plumbing will help keep things flowing.
  • Run a faucet served by an at-risk supply line at a trickle. It’s not the most efficient when it comes to water use, but during a bad cold snap, it could make all the difference.
  • Keep the thermostat at the same temperature day and night, it won’t pay to save on your heat bill if you have to deal with a burst pipe.

Other things to consider

Many long term preventative measures have the added bonus of making your home more energy-efficient. Energy Star has a useful guide on how to correctly seal leaks. While many of these things can be DIY projects, not all of them are. The key is that you’re making an investment that will impact your energy bills and protect your pipes. Things like leaving a faucet dripping can go against our instincts and seem inefficient. You don’t need to leave your sink at a slow drip all winter. The temperature recommendations for this vary a bit, but in general, if it’s expected to be in the 20s or lower, it might be time to throw the cabinet doors open and let the sink or bathtub drip.

If you’re going out of town

It might be tempting to turn the heat way down while you aren’t using your home, but keep it about 55 degrees at minimum to prevent burst pipes while away. Remember that colder weather can come on quick, and in the winter your heater is protecting your home, not just you.  If you need help winterizing your home, or if you get unlucky and end up with a burst pipe, Rogers Home Improvement is here for you. We’ve been serving Terre Haute, Greater Wabash Valley, and Eastern Illinois areas for over 25 years, and we’re ready to help you.