How to Prevent and Deal With Burst Pipes During The Winter

Guest Author Gema Hunt

During the winter months when temperatures drop, burst pipes can become a real problem for both plumbers and home owners. Admittedly, the relatively temperate California climate means that weather-related burst pipes aren’t as common as they are in much cooler states, but it is still important to be vigilant to the problem, and to be aware about how you can both prevent and repair them as quickly as possible should the need arise. 

A burst pipe is one of the most disastrous plumbing problems that you can experience. When a pipe in your home bursts, it can cause serious damage to both the structure and the wiring of your property unless you deal with it as quickly as possible. Here are a few hints and tips for how to both prevent and to deal with burst water pipes during the colder winter months:

Turn off your Water Supply

The first sign that a water pipe is frozen and may be about to burst is that you will experienced reduced or no flow from your established plumbing fixtures, such as your faucets. At this stage it may also be wise to contact your home insurer to see where you stand: It can be difficult to ascertain in advance whether or not your plumbing will be covered by your home owners insurance or not, but by informing your insurer as quickly as possible you will be in a better position to determine whether you will be footing the bill for the cost of any required repairs. You should also turn off the main water supply to your property (if you are able to do this yourself) and leave all of your faucets open so that you know when the water begins to flow freely again. Thawing a pipe is a process that takes plenty of patience: it is essential that the pipes are heated up naturally and slowly in order to encourage them to thaw without causing any unnecessary damage.

You may have been informed that you can thaw your pipes using any electrical heater or even a hair dryer : this is bad advice. Any water that is already leaking (whether you can see it or not) combined with these electrical products could cause a electrocution risk and cause you much more damage than the damage caused by the burst pipe itself. Instead try to utilise the natural heat in your home: open up any cabinets and crawl space doors and let the process take place slowly but effectively and, most importantly, safely. Heating up your pipes will help them to unfreeze before they burst, which will save you considerably in the long term.

When to Call a Plumber

If your pipe has already burst then that should probably be the signal that it’s time to call a plumber: turn off your main water valve immediately and seek professional help. This is because, unless you are an expert DIYer who fitted and installed your own pipes and electrical supplies, then you will probably not be aware of where the two dimensions cross or overlap, and without expert knowledge you could therefore electrocute yourself or cause even more long term and expensive damage to your property. What you can do yourself though is protect everything around the leak: cover up or move everything that could come into contact with the burst pipe in order to ensure that your property or any expensive possessions don’t become damaged: your plumber will take care of the rest.

If you do have concerns about your pipes bursting or becoming damaged this winter then prevention is much better than a cure: it is relatively easy to winter proof your house and ensure complicated pipe leaks don’t cause you heartache. The first thing to do is ensure that your pipes aren’t exposed to the elements: insulate your property, and insulate any external pipes that might be exposed too. Insulation is one of the most important aspects of pipe care.  In the rare event that the temperatures are very low, always leave your heating turned on low, rather  than turning it off when you are out or away on vacation: this heat through your pipes should prevent any freezing and also give you peace of mind about your property’s safety when you aren’t there.