How to Prevent Frozen Pipes and Water Damage in the Winter

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Pipes can freeze, even in lived-in homes. People sometimes want to vacation during the winter or go out of town for the holidays. This can create a disaster that will be waiting when the family gets home. Frozen pipes can create a water leak, causing thousands of dollars in water damage beyond the broken pipes.

Frozen Pipes

People often want to turn down or turn off the heat when they're not home. This "cost savings" could turn into an expensive repair. Keeping the thermostat set at 60 degrees helps keep the water in the exterior wall pipes warm enough to prevent frozen pipes. It is also ideal to leave the doors to closets and cabinets open so heat can reach the pipes along those walls.

Outdoor faucets cause many problems in winter months if they are not closed properly. The supply shutoff should be turned off and the hose disconnected. The outside faucet should then be opened to drain the remaining water out of the pipes. This should be done in the fall every year for outside faucets, even those faucets considered frost-proof.

Water Damage

The best way to prevent water damage is to make sure the main water valve to the house is shut off whenever you go away, even for an overnight trip. Pipes can freeze in as little as 12 hours in temperatures below 30 degrees, and it takes less than 24 hours for water to create thousands of dollars in damage. The water supply valves to washers, dishwashers and toilets should also be turned off to prevent leakage and damage.

When turning off your main shutoff valve for your pipes, it is a good idea to do a quick check of your supply lines to make sure there are no cracks, bulges or leaks. If there is any sign of corrosion, you should replace the lines before leaving town. It is also a good idea to inspect your supply lines every three to four months. Even in non-freezing temperatures, a corroded or worn water line can cause water damage.

A good time to check supply lines and winterize the pipes is toward the end of fall before the first frosts start. It’s a good idea to add the pipes to your "to do" list and quickly take care of worn or corroded lines and broken faucets. Never wait to manage a simple problem.