Do you live in an area of the country that experiences frequent prolonged freezing temperatures? You’re probably well versed in protecting yourself against the cold but have you paid attention to your home’s water pipes?
Many of us think that because we keep our houses warm and snug our water pipes are in no danger of freezing. But do you know exactly where those pipes go on their journey from the mains to the faucet? It’s possible that some pass through unheated spaces, such as a garage, basement, or attic. If that’s so, when the weather gets really cold the water in the pipes could freeze.
When water freezes it expands, when it expands inside a restricted area—in this instance a pipe—pressure builds up until, eventually, the pipe will crack and burst. Sometimes the first you know about this is when you hear running water or see drips coming through a ceiling. Before you know it you have a flood on your hands.
To avoid such a disaster, insulate any pipes that pass through an unheated space. If you have pipes located against an exterior wall it’s a good idea to wrap them with heat tape.
And don’t just think about inside plumbing. Outside spigots can also cause problems. An outside spigot is typically fed from pipes inside a building. Thus, again, if the water in the spigot and pipe freezes the subsequent damage will be inside.
There are two ways to prevent problems with outside spigots. The first is to turn off the water supply and drain the pipes: Locate the shut-off valve to the pipe, close it, and then open the spigot to allow any water still in the pipe to run out. The second method is to purchase an insulated cover for the spigot.
But what if you do suffer a burst pipe in your property?
Most homeowners insurance policies do cover burst pipe damage. However, as soon as you are aware of the problem it will be your responsibility to begin fixing it in order to prevent additional damage. Furthermore, your insurance company will not pay for the repair and/or replacement of the pipe itself, nor will they make any payment if they deem that the damage could have been prevented—e.g. you knowingly left the property with no heat for an extended period of time and did not drain the pipes.
To fully understand your responsibilities, contact your insurance agent or broker, and if you need help protecting your pipes, ask for advice from your plumber.