The reason that many water pipes burst is due to both the weather and the tempurature. Water expands as it freezes and if this expansion occurs in a closed environment, such as a water pipe, there could be substantial pressure placed on the inner walls of the pipe material. Whether the pipes are made out of copper, iron, lead, or CPVC plastic, it does not matter. Even if a pipe is strong enough to handle the occasional stress of frozen water, the cumulative effect can weaken the structural integrity of the pipe and eventually, it will burst as the pipe thaws.
Good news for homeowners is that most pipes are protected from bursting because they are either covered with insulation or are located in places that very rarely reach the freezing tempurature of water. However, there may be sections of pipe that are often exposed to freezing tempuratures or have issues because of insulation failure. The frozen water within the pipes causes blockage, which combined with water pressure and backup, can cause weakened pipes to burst without warning.
We, as professionals here at John C. Flood, highly recommend that you keep water flowing through pipes during cold weather (leave a trickle of water flowing through home faucets during a cold weather event). Also, if you have been having issues with this already, it can prove necessary to shut off your main water supply immediately to minimize any future damage.
Upon discovery of a burst water pipe, please call As Soon As Possible to find the leak and repair the damage.
Some precautionary measures you can take are:
- Turn off outside faucets. Disconnect the hose. If you are going to be away for the winter, turn off the water from inside your house and drain the pipe.
- Never completely shut off the heat when you are away. If you are planning to leave your home for an extended period of time and you don’t drain your pipes, lower the thermostat, but never shut it off. The lack of heat can freeze the pipes in the walls and basement. Freezing bursts the pipes and, when the house warms up, the thawing water will cause flooding and significant damage.
- Patch any cracks and holes in doors, windows, and walls near pipes. When the temperature drops to near zero, a high wind blowing through a small opening can freeze a nearby pipe, even though the temperature in the room is 70°F.
- Insulate water meters, pipes, and faucets in unheated areas. Wrap pipes with pipe-insulating material, which is available at hardware stores.