Concerns Involving Frozen Pipes

As winter weather approaches, many homeowners must think about the possibility of frozen pipes. Blockages that cause the pipe to expand and burst may result in a flood, which could cause thousands of dollars in property damage. Afterwards, you’ll need to pay out-of-pocket to fix the pipe and will have to work with your insurer to get compensation for any damaged property and belongings.
To prevent this from happening, consider the following factors.
The Signs
Before a flood occurs, know the signs of a frozen pipe and react accordingly:

  • The outside temperature drops below 32F. Keep in mind that most pipes burst at night when temperatures tend to drop even lower.
  • Frost starts to form on the pipes or faucet.
  • When you turn on the faucet, water no longer comes out.
  • Your home has no running water.
  • Your pipes develop a strange smell, which could be a result of blockage.

To reverse the blockage, some recommend attempting to thaw the pipes with a hairdryer or hot rag. However, this strategy becomes more complicated when the pipe is located in a wall. Consider having a professional cut through the sheet rock and having a plumber thaw out the pipe.
When the Pipe Bursts
When you ignore a blockage, pressure between that point and the closed faucet develops. Should the pressure increase, the pipe may explode. When this happens:

  • Your home or property begins to flood. If not dealt with promptly, the water damage starts to spread. The longer it’s ignored, the greater the damage.
  • You or your tenant no longer has access to running water. As such, you no longer can do everyday tasks, including washing clothes and dishes or taking a shower.
  • In the meantime, you’ve got to work with your insurer to get your property cleaned up and fixed, and may have to look for temporary housing.

Where Pipes Are More Likely to Freeze
Within your home, understand which pipes have the greatest risk of freezing:

  • Any pipe that’s not insulated.
  • Pipes closer to exterior walls, placed closer to the outdoors and freezing temperatures.
  • Those in attics, crawl spaces, garages and basements that receive less heat compared to other places on your property.

To mitigate these risks, your insurer expects you to take precautions against inclement weather, including winterizing your plumbing. You may need to:

  • Add insulation to all types of pipes listed above.
  • Disconnect and drain your garden hose.
  • Add a frost-proof spigot or close off the interior shut-off valve, drain the spigot and install a faucet insulator.
  • If you’ll be leaving for a few days, make sure to keep your furnace at 55 degrees or higher, shut off your home’s main water supply and completely drain your pipes.

Working with Your Insurer
Realize that not every insurer covers damage from frozen pipes, and what they’ll reimburse you for may be limited. As your claim unfolds, an adjuster may ask about:

  • Winterizing and what temperature your home is maintained at.
  • If you shut off the water supply while you were away.
  • How quickly you dealt with the flooding.

Also, understand that your homeowner’s insurance covers the damage resulting from the burst pipe – not the pipe itself. You’ll be expected to pay for this and meanwhile, your policy assists with water-damaged carpets, electronics, appliances, belongings, tear-outs, reconstruction and temporary living expenses.
What will you do if a pipe bursts this winter? To make sure you’re fully prepared, review your homeowners policy today with our team. To make an appointment, give us a call at 203.439.2815.