Preventing and Responding to Frozen Pipes

Did you know that every winter over a quarter million Americans will be affected by damage from frozen pipes? Water damage from frozen pipes accounts for 22% of all property damage claims and over the past decade has cost insurance companies over $4 billion according to the Institute for Business and Home Safety.

How do pipes freeze, burst and cause water damage? When temperatures outside reach below 20 degree Fahrenheit water pipes in buildings with no or insufficient insulation can freeze causing the water in the pipes to expand and cause the pipes to crack. After the Polar Vortex every single building in Wisconsin has been exposed to at least a week of sub 20 degree weather already this winter.

Even a small crack can cause tremendous damage. For instance, a crack of only one-eighth inch can spill more than 250 gallons of water per day!

There are two key components to protect your home or business from frozen pipes. One, is to know how to prevent your pipes from freezing in the first place. The second is to know how to respond to a water leak if you do have a pipe burst.

Preventing frozen pipes:

Keeping your pipes from freezing can be a challenge during Wisconsin winters, but following these few simple tips can go a long way in protecting your home or business from serious water damage.

  • Keep your building’s temperate at 68 degrees or higher, even when unoccupied.
  • Pipes nearest to exterior walls and in crawl spaces should be wrapped with pipe insulation or heating tape.
  • Heat your basement.
  • Allow heat from your building to circulate under sinks by keeping cabinet doors open.
  • Set faucets to slightly drip a small amount of lukewarm water when the temperature outside drops below 20 degrees.
  • Make sure the outside walls of your building are well-insulated.
  • If you plan to be away from your building for an extended period of time, shut-off the water supply to your washing machine.
  • Install a backup generator to keep your building’s heat running in the event of a power outage.
  • Have your heating system serviced annually by a licensed technician to ensure optimum operation and reliability.

Responding to a burst pipe:

If you are like most people, you have no idea where the water shut-off is located in your home or place of business. If this is the case you should immediately locate it and make sure others know where it is as well. Knowing where the water shut-off is and how to operate it can mitigate the water damage from a burst pipe significantly.

Another important factor in reducing the damage from a burst pipe is to make sure you have access to the water shut-off valve. Knowing where it is and how it works won’t help you when a pipe bursts and someone has stacked a bunch of boxes in front of it so make sure it is always easy to access quickly.

Once you shut off the water there will still be water in the pipes that will continue to leak, but you can divert this water rather than let it continue to pour through the crack. In a home you can do this by turning on faucets closer to the main water supply which will enable the water to go down the drain rather than all over your home. For a business, the main drain is typically located in close proximity to the shut-off valve.

All of these steps are important in reducing the damage from a burst pipe, but you will still need the pipe repaired and should have all your pipes looked at to see if others are vulnerable to freezing and bursting so call a plumber immediately.

If you have any questions regarding your water, sewer insurance coverage or need assistance rectifying a water leak, please contact the Personal Lines department at Diversified Insurance Solutions at 262.439.4700.

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