When Frozen Pipes Go Bang in the Night – One Family’s Story

By Terry Sheridan – FLASH Consumer Reporter

Missouri’s the “Show Me” state, and last winter it did just that to St. Louis homeowner Flora Dimitriou, who learned at 1:30 a.m. on a frigid January night what happens when water pipes freeze.

Awakened by a loud bang, Dimitriou knew a pipe had burst in an upstairs bathroom and rushed downstairs to shut off the water line. At first, there was no water to be seen. The fractured pipe was in an exterior wall of a bathroom – the only one of her 3.5 baths to have an outside wall.

But as the water in the pipe thawed, the water came – leaking what amounted to four buckets of water onto the ceiling of the den, directly below the bathroom.

Dimitriou moved aside furniture and punched eight holes in the den ceiling to relieve the water pressure. Buckets under each hole caught the dripping. Hours later, the leaks finally stopped.

Repairs included a teardown and replacement of at least half of the den ceiling, and cutting out and replacing the damaged portion of the bathroom pipe, which required removal and replacement of wall tile, and insulating the pipe. The cost: $1950.

“We had two options: Leave it alone and insulate what was there or actually re-do the way the plumbing was installed, which would mean tearing down the whole ceiling in the den and turning the shower around so the pipes would be coming in from an inside wall,” she says. She says there’s actually one good thing about the experience: The leak started in the bathroom’s linen closet. If the burst pipe had been under the two sinks, the cabinets would have had to be replaced.

Ironically, Dimitriou did the things you’re supposed to do to protect water pipes from freezing: They were insulated, dome covers shielded outside spigots from snow and ice and water lines were drained or allowed to drip to prevent freezing.

But in her family’s 12 years in the house, the side with the corner bathroom had always been cold – even after the builder re-insulated it, she says.

“The next house I buy, I’d want to know more about the plumbing and make sure there was adequate insulation,” she says.

Meanwhile, Dimitriou expects to start using a small space heater near that bathroom a little sooner than usual this year.

Learn more about “foam, dome, and drip” precautions to protect pipes and other winter weather tips for your home at FLASH’s Great Winter Weather Party.

Editor’s Note: Terry Sheridan is an award-winning journalist who has more than 30 years of experience in reporting and editing for newspapers in the Chicago and Miami areas. She covered the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew’s devastation in 1992 in South Florida, and has experienced damage to her own homes from two hurricanes. She now lives in New Hampshire.

 

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