Don't Let Jack Frost wreak havoc

Don't Let Jack Frost wreak havoc

It's rare, though not unheard of in Texas, for temperatures to drop to the point the pipes in your house can freeze. 

That's why it's important to take precautions.

Warm and muggy one day and freezing the next, the winter weather pattern in Texas is often a roller coaster. Leaving pipes unprotected can cause them to burst, which can result in a tremendous amount of costly damage to your home and the contents inside, according to the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension.

If you live in a home that's hooked into a municipal water system, you have a water line directing water to sinks, refrigerators, and washing machines.

In parts of the country that are used to freezing temperatures, walls are built thicker, with more insulation and pipes may be several feet underground protecting them from the cold. Meanwhile, the pipes in Texas are typically weatherized to handle the summer heat.

In 2023, the average cost of a water line repair was about $950, with a possible range between $340 and $1,575, according to a Forbes article. 

So, what exactly makes the pipes burst? 

Water expands as it freezes. This expansion puts tremendous pressure whatever is containing it, including metal pipes.

There are a variety of things you can do to help prevent frozen pipes. Keep the garage door closed if there are water supply lines contained there, and open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around plumping, according to the American Red Cross. Let cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes as running water - even at a trickle - helps prevent pipes from freezing.

Here are some key tips to avoid frozen pipes and costly water damage from the Texas Department of Insurance:

  • Install inexpensive wraps on exposed pipes. Start in the attic, where many Texas homeowners saw pipes freeze last winter.
  • Wrap your outdoor faucets.
  • Whether you own your home or live in an apartment or condo, identify water shutoff valves indoors and out. This will ready you for cutting off the water if a freeze poses risks.
  • Don't delay preparations until a freeze looms. Act now to ease your worries.

So what do you do if your pipes have frozen?

According to the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension

  • If you suspect that the pipe is frozen; keep the faucet open. Water will begin to flow as you treat the frozen area, which will help to melt more ice in the pipe. Make sure you know where the main water valve is located outside of your home. The frozen pipe may already be broken, and it will leak when the water is thawed. If this is the case, you'll need to turn off the main water valve to your home until the leak is repaired. 
  • Apply heat to the frozen portion of the pipe by using a heating pad, electric hair dryer, a portable space heater, or by wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water. Do not attempt to use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove, or other open flame devices.
  • Apply heat until full water pressure is restored. Call a licensed plumber if you are unable to locate the frozen area, if the frozen area is not within reach, or if you can't get the pipe to thaw. 
  • Inspect all other faucets in your home to find out if additional pipes are frozen. If one pipe freezes, others may freeze as well.

If you suspect a pipe has burst or know one has, call a licensed plumber. There's a good chance if your pipes have burst, a lot of people in the community are experiencing the same problem, causing you to wait in line.

With the right steps and preparation, you and your family can enjoy the winter season comfortably without having to worry about frozen pipes and property damage.

"Let us love winter, for it is the spring of genius." —Pietro Aretino