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Frozen pipes can cause extensive damage and considerable inconvenience to householders. Because water expands when it freezes, pipes can be subjected to enormous pressure causing them to burst. Both metal and plastic pipes are affected by this phenomenon. The most vulnerable pipes are those that are exposed to the severe cold, such as outdoor hose pipes, as well as water supply pipes in unheated areas like garages, cellars and attics.
In the case of frozen pipes, prevention is the key! The following preventative measures will greatly improve your chances of avoiding the misery and expense that ruptured pipes can cause:
Before the start of winter, disconnect all outside hoses and store them indoors.
Check around your property for vulnerable pipework. Ensure that both hot and cold water pipes are insulated if they are found in areas that are exposed to freezing temperatures or drafts. Affected areas include basements, garages, lofts and under kitchen and bathroom cabinets.
Give some thought to investing in insulation products specifically designed for water pipes. These can be bought from building suppliers and DIY stores. If you can't afford commercial coverings, newspapers can be used to provide some basic protection and insulation for exposed pipework. Alternatively you can try beaming a small heater or heat lamp in the direction of the vulnerable pipes. Bear in mind that small water pipes will freeze more quickly than waste pipes and sewers.
Avoid leaving garage doors open if there is water supply pipework in the garage. It only takes a few minutes for pipes to freeze in severely cold weather.
During periods of very cold weather, run cold water from the taps served by exposed pipework. The temperature of the running water will help prevent the pipes from freezing.
Doors that link heated and unheated areas should be kept ajar to warm up those vulnerable parts of the house.
LEAVE THE HEAT ON in your home if you go away during the cold weather. Countless winter holidaymakers return to floods and large plumbing bills because they fail to follow this advice.
The first sign of a frozen pipe is usually a tap that will not yield water. If you do suspect a frozen pipe, your first step should be to locate affected area.
Keep the tap served by the pipe open so that it can drain as it thaws. Steam created by heating the pipe can cause it to burst if it does not have an escape.
Several methods exist for thawing frozen pipes, but all essentially involve applying heat to the frozen section of the pipe. This is best achieved through the use of an electric heating pad, hair dryer or portable heater/heat lamp. Alternatively, try wrapping the pipe with towels or cloths soaked in hot water. NEVER use a blow torch or other open flame device to thaw a frozen pipe.
This can be calamitous if the flame comes in contact with combustible materials used for insulation but it also risks boiling the water within the pipe, thereby causing it to explode. AVOID using any form of direct heating method if the frozen pipe is located next to a gas pipe. In this case you should contact a plumbing professional for assistance.
Once water is running freely through the tap again, you will know that the pipe has thawed. At this stage it is worth checking other taps for similar problems. If one pipe has frozen, there is a good chance that others may also be affected.If in doubt, book an appointment with us now!