In recent years, increasingly brutal winter storms have punished wider swathes of the country, including traditionally more stable climates like the South and Gulf Coast. This means unforgiving freezing temperatures are taking their toll on homes and infrastructure either not built to withstand it or aging structures with outdated systems, like plumbing, that are ticking time bombs for major repair or all out failure.
When it comes to your home’s plumbing, we can tell you the warning signs of potential failure, DIY pipe triage to perform until your Ben Franklin professional arrives, and how to prevent busted pipes in the future.
SIX SIGNS YOUR PIPES ARE IN TROUBLE:
- Extremely cold water: If your hot water supply suddenly goes cold and your hot water tank is operating properly, you may have a burst pipe in that line. A broken pipe affects the flow of water and compromises the heating mechanism, causing the temperature to drop. Since this problem can severely limit your access to hot water in winter, it demands immediate action.
- Changing water pressure: Water pressure tends to fluctuate when there is air trapped inside the pipes. In winter, cold air enters through a burst pipe which then causes disruptions to the regular water flow. If you notice unusual patterns in your water pressure levels, your Ben Franklin plumbing professional can inspect and verify. These changes in pressure can reveal other serious issues, such as damaged pipe fittings.
- Stains on the wall: A blot on your ceiling or wall, which was not there before, is a strong sign of a burst pipe. Puddles and pooling water, too, are red flags of plumbing problem. These are found most often around toilet bases, sinks, faucets, laundry machines, and other appliances. Get this problem fixed as soon as possible to prevent a potential flooding crisis.
- Bulging ceilings or walls: Much like wall stains, a bulge in a wall or ceiling is sure to get your attention. This physical deformation occurs when water has been gathering for a while due to a leaky pipe in the ceilings or behind the walls. In many cases, it will be soft or “squishy” when you touch it. Your wall and ceiling material can only hold water for so long, so it’s critical that this is addressed immediately before the problem literally comes caving in, causing untold additional damage inside the home.
- Strange sounds: Do you hear a strange gurgling or bubbling noise emitting from your pipes? Whenever there is a crack in a pipe, air gets in and produces this sound after flushing a toilet or running a faucet. The fluctuating air pressure is what causes the gurgling noises inside the pipes. Leaky pipes always result in fluctuating water pressure and the ensuing scary noises. Also, if there’s no running faucet, no flushing toilet, and nobody is taking a shower but you still hear rushing water in your house, it’s almost always a broken pipe.
- Strange, unpleasant odors: That undeniable sewage-like smell wafting throughout your house is likely being caused by a burst pipe. This odor can be hard to live with, especially during winter since you don’t have the luxury of spending time outdoors. Get the problem fixed as soon as possible with the help of your Ben Franklin plumber.
If you’re not finding active leaks, the good news is that your pipes may be frozen, but not yet burst. There is still time to avoid potentially catastrophic water damage in the home. We highly recommend calling your licensed and experienced Ben Franklin Plumbing professionals to inspect and thaw your frozen pipes. DIY attempts, while well-intentioned, can lead to equal or worse property damage than the burst pipe itself. However, if you are going to attempt to thaw your pipes, we want to offer these tips and guidance.
- Open your faucets: Thawing pipes creates water and steam and you’ll need open faucets to let this out. Open faucets also give the thawing ice a way to drain as it melts.
- Apply heat: There is a few ways you can do this; wrapping an electronic heating pad around the pipe, using a hair dryer, or both. In a pinch, towels heated with hot water can also work, but may take longer and are a bit messier. Do not leave the heating pad unattended for a long time on the pipe as it’s a fire hazard. NOTE: DO NOT use any sort of actual fire-producing device to thaw pipes such as a blow torch, propane or kerosene heater, butane lighter, etc. AVOID using space heaters unless you can guarantee there are NO flammable materials nearby. Even in this case, you should not leave a space heater unattended for a long time.
- Monitor the faucets as you apply heat until you see water start to flow. When the stream returns to normal, that’s a strong indication that thawing has been successful.
A better way to approach this is to not need thawing in the first place! An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of ice in your pipes!
HOW TO PREVENT FROZEN PIPES; YOUR WINTERIZING CHECKLIST
- Winterize high-risk pipes by draining water from them before freezing temperatures set in. This includes swimming pool and lawn irrigation supply lines. On those freezing days, let your faucets drip to keep water moving and reduce the risk of freezing.
- Disconnect any hoses from the outside of your home (like a garden hose), drain the hoses and store them in the garage. Make sure to close the indoor valves supplying these outdoor access points. Look into inexpensive foam insulation covers that you can strap onto your outdoor faucets, available at most hardware and home improvement stores.
- Insulate around vents and light fixtures. This helps prevent heat from escaping into the attic.
- Seal any wall cracks. Be sure to pay careful attention to the areas around utility service lines.
- Keep the garage doors closed to protect water lines.
- Keep your thermostat at the same temperature day and night. Never let it fall below 55-degrees (F) when you leave your home.
- Make sure you have good weather sealing on all doors and windows.
- Place a 60-watt bulb in areas where you’re concerned about pipes freezing (such as an outdoor well house, crawl space, or basement). Check the area thoroughly to remove all flammable materials.
Preventing frozen pipes is an easy DIY job, thawing frozen pipes or repairing burst lines is best left to the professionals at Ben Franklin Plumbing. Our technicians are bonded, insured, and high-trained to address your plumbing concerns correctly, safely, and affordably the first time. We’ve been proudly serving customers in Charlotte and the surrounding area for decades, including Indian Trail, Concord, and Mooresville.