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Take Steps To Prevent Water Pipes From Freezing

After waking up on a cold winter morning, nothing gets the day started on the right foot like a hot shower. But that shower may have to be delayed if low temperatures mean no water comes out of the faucet due to frozen pipes.


Gina Peek, interim associate dean of Extension, Engagement and Continuing Education at Oklahoma State University, said the best thing a homeowner can do is be proactive and take steps to prevent pipes from freezing well before the problem occurs. 


“A broken pipe can be costly to repair, not including the water damage your home may suffer,” Peek said. “Keep in mind water expands when it freezes, which results in a lot of pressure on your water pipes, whether they are metal or plastic.”


Check around your home for water supply lines that may be more susceptible to freezing, such as those located in unheated areas like a basement, attic, garage and crawl spaces. 


“You might want to consider installing specific products made to insulate water pipes. For example, easy-to-install foam insulation that wraps around the pipe,” Peek said. “Look for leaks around where the pipe enters the home and seal it up to prevent even more cold air from coming into the space. A more costly option is to install heat tape on exposed water pipes.”


Other steps homeowners should consider include:


  • Draining and storing garden hoses, as well as closing inside valves supplying outdoor hose bibs.
  • During a cold snap, be sure to keep your garage doors closed if there are water supply lines located there.
  • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the pipes. If you have young children in the home, be sure to remove any harmful cleaners and other household chemicals from these cabinets. 
  • Make certain the home’s heating system is in good repair and left on. 
  • Let cold water drip from any faucets located on an outside wall. Running water in pipes is less likely to freeze.

If you do discover pipes have frozen, shut off the water supply and contact a plumber for assistance. Contact your insurance company if needed. Never thaw a pipe with an open flame, and remember water and electricity do not mix. Be alert for the risk of electrical shocks in and near standing water. 


“If there is a history of frozen pipes causing problems in your home, consider having a licensed plumber relocate them,” Peek said. “Also consider adding extra insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces. What these preventative measures will cost is negligible compared to the cost of repairing a broken pipe and water damage.”


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