1/9/2015 11:37 AM

How to Prevent Frozen Pipes

Last night I was called to a claim for client that owned a large apartment building near New York City. On the 5th floor, the sprinkler pipe froze and burst. The water ran for over 40 minutes before it could be shut off. Needless to say, it effected the tenants on the lower floors. My guess is damage will be well in excess of $300,000!

Temperature shifts of just 10 degrees can cause contraction and expansion of pipe material, which can cause water lines to break. Also, when the air temperature is at or below freezing, the ground above a pipe freezes, causing stress on the pipe. Since the drop in water temperature lags behind air temperature changes, water pipe breaks usually occur one to two days after a cold spell. During and after freezing temperature periods, keep an eye out for pooling water near your building or for low water pressure from faucets.


As the temperature continues to drop, the pipes in your home and business are at risk of damage from freezing conditions. Being prepared and informed may help you avoid the messy and expensive issue of frozen pipes.

Prevention of Pipe Breaks

Pipe breaks can be devastating, so anything you can do to minimize the risk is extremely helpful. As with most systems and parts of your property prevention is by far the best solution, below are several key things you can do to:

• Make sure you know where your shut off valve is.
• Ensure that any outside taps and piping including drain pipes for heating or overflow pipes are insulated. You can use insulation or foam to do this but make sure you do not leave any joints, bends or taps exposed. For outside taps, fitted covers are available.
• Any piping that are in unheated areas such as lofts, basements and garages all need to be insulated.
• Any pipes buried in the ground outside such as pipes to garages or sheds need to be buried deep enough and/or lagged.
• Insulate your cold water tank, this is so often forgotten and can be the major cause of pipe breaks.
• Leave your heating on at least 68 degrees at all times throughout cold spells. This will keep the system warm enough not to break.
• Fix any dripping taps or existing leaks before the cold spell. Many pipe breaks happen because of leaks.
• Have your central heating system serviced regularly.
• In particularly cold spells, leave inside doors and cabinets open to allow the warm air to circulate around space and warms any pipes in that space, reducing the risk of a breaks.
• If your property will be unoccupied for any space of time, turn off the water, drain any water from the system and close the taps again (this is very important) and leave your heating on. Most heating systems will continue to work without the main water on for a period of time. Most importantly make sure that someone can check on the property from time to time.
• Remember that the cost of a burst pipe can be thousands, so a little preventative cost can save much more in the long run.

What To Do If You have a Pipe Break:

• No matter the prevention taken sometimes burst pipes happen. What you do when you discover one will make the difference between an inconvenience or a total disaster. You cannot always see a broken pipe. Below are some tips to help you spot them:
• Not every burst pipe is a torrent of water from the ceiling, look for damp patches on walls, ceilings and floors. Loss of water pressure, unusual noises in the system and even electrical faults all can point to pipe breaks.
• DO NOT use the electrical devices, keep away from light switches and sockets if water is leaking, it easily can be within the electrical circuit.
• Clean the excess water away as soon as possible. The quicker the water is removed the less damage can be caused.
• Move any furniture and belongings from the affected area, remember that insurance does not always cover everything and some things just cannot be replaced.
• If the pipe break is not on the property but the street, then keep well away. The water pressure in the street can be exceptional and very dangerous. Call the local water authority immediately.



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