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.

 

6 Days, 6 Ways To Protect Your Home and Family This Winter

With extreme cold weather affecting families from coast to coast and tomorrow marking the first official day of winter, we have put together six ways you can protect your home and family from winter weather conditions.

Day 1:  Enter to win a Kohler Generator. A home generator will keep systems running to protect your home and family. Generators:

  • Provide heat to keep you warm and comfortable
  • Prevent  pipes from freezing and causing water damage
  • Keep communications systems running so you can stay informed of weather and travel conditions for friends and family
  • Ensure that water removal pumps or sump pumps are protecting the basement from water damage as snow begins to melt
  • Preserve food and fresh water for the family
  • Support well pumps for running water/toilet flushing

Day 2:  Prevent Frozen Pipes by Foam, Dome or Drip. For as little as $1 per 6’ of insulation, you can stop pipes from freezing and save energy, money and frustration. When water freezes in a pipe, it expands and can exert pressure of up to 2,000 pounds per square inch – enough to rupture almost any pipe filled with water. When a pipe bursts, it can spill several hundred gallons of water per hour, resulting in the second most common cause of home insurance claims in America. 

Day 3: Check for air leaks around windows and doors using a lit incense stick. If the smoke is sucked out of an opening, seal the leak with caulk, spray foam or weather stripping. Don’t forget about holes in the attic, basement and crawlspaces. The easiest place to insulate that will generate the biggest results is your attic. The US Environmental Protection Agency suggests at least 12 to 15 inches of insulation on the floor of your attic.

Day 4: Check your portable heaters and fireplaces. Half of all fire-related deaths are caused by items placed too closely to heat sources. Make sure that your heater is tested and labeled by a nationally recognized testing company, such as Underwriter’s Laboratories. Keep portable heaters at least three feet away from drapes, furniture or other flammable materials. Place the heater on a level surface away from areas it can be bumped or knocked over. Clear the area around the hearth of debris, decorations and flammable materials. Provide proper venting systems for all heating equipment. Make sure all vent pipes extend at least three feet above the roof.

Day 5: Make your car winter safe. Create a car emergency kit with flashlights, a distress flag, blankets, extra food and water. Keep it there throughout the season.

Day 6: Prevent Ice Dams. Ice dams are formed when air in the attic is warm enough to cause snow and ice on the roof to thaw and refreeze repeatedly. Pools of water then become trapped under layers of ice that seep under your roof covering (tiles or shingles) into the attic. Keep the warm air downstairs where it belongs with sufficient insulation on the floor of the attic. Consider using a dehumidifier to control water vapor. Seal all openings that would allow vapor to rise into the attic; including holes created from installing light fixtures, ceiling fans or disco balls. Provide attic ventilation to replace warm air in the attic with cold outside air. Consult a professional for the best way to avoid ice dams and water damage in your home. Keep gutters and downspouts clear to allow melted snow and ice to flow away from your home.

21 Ways to Weather Winter

Preventing Ice Dams

Ice dams are formed when air in the attic is warm enough to cause snow and ice on the roof to thaw and refreeze repeatedly. Pools of water then become trapped under layers of ice that seep under your roof covering (tiles or shingles) into the attic.

1. Insulate the floor of the attic. Consider also using a dehumidifier to control water vapor.

2. Seal all openings that would allow vapor to rise into the attic; this includes any holes       created from installing light fixtures or ceiling fans.

3. Provide good attic ventilation to replace warm air in the attic with cold outside air. Consult a professional for the best way to avoid ice dams and water damage in your home.

4. Keep gutters and downspouts clear to allow melted snow and ice to flow away from your home.

5. Never climb up on the roof to remove the snow. You can cause significant damage to your roof coverings not to mention yourself if you were to slip and fall. And don’t install large pieces of equipment in the attic. This will only raise the temperature in the winter months.

6. Don’t use salt or other minerals to melt the snow on your roof. These are very damaging to roof shingles and tiles not to mention gutters and downspouts.

Prevent Frozen Pipes

Damage from frozen pipes is the second most common cause of insurance claims in America. The average homeowner will have to spend thousands to repair damage from a frozen, leaking pipes.

7. FOAM: Insulate pipes exposed to the elements or cold drafts. For as little as $1 per 6’ of insulation, you can stop pipes from freezing and save energy. By keeping your water warmer, you reduce the amount of energy needed to heat water in the cold, winter months.

8. DOME: Place an insulating dome or other coverings on outdoor faucets and spigots also reduce the likelihood of the water in your homes pipes freezing, expanding and causing a costly leak.

9. DRIP: By allowing a slow drip from your faucets, you reduce the build-up of pressure in the pipes. Even if the pipes freeze, you have released the pressure from the water system reducing the likelihood of a rupture.

Check Your Insulation

Doors and windows are just some of the places that you should ensure are well insulated before the temperatures start to drop.

10. Check and refresh caulk annually before cold weather sets in.

11. Check for air leaks around windows and doors using a lit incense stick. If the smoke is sucked out of an opening, seal the leak with caulk, spray foam or weather stripping.

12. The easiest place to insulate that will generate the biggest results is your attic. The US Environmental Protection Agency suggests at least 12 – 15 inches of insulation on the floor of your attic (more if you are in a colder climate).

13. If you don’t have energy efficient windows, consider using shrink film window insulation kit from a local hardware store.

Winterizing Outside Your Home

14. Before the storm approaches, lay down a layer of deicing sand/salt to minimize the buildup of ice during the storm.

15. After the storm, lay down layers of deicing sand/salt to melt the snow and ice. Once it begins to melt you can chip away at the layers with a snow shovel to move it off of steps and walkways.

16. Move outdoor furniture, grills, toys and other items to a covered protected space.

17. Seal your deck to protect it against snow, ice, rain and all of the other elements it is vulnerable to.

18. If you have plants outside that cannot take cold weather, consider moving them indoors bringing a little life and décor to the inside of your home. If this isn’t possible, cover plants and shrubs when temperatures are forecast to drop below tolerable levels.

19. Clean your gutters of any debris once all the leaves have fallen and install gutter downspout extensions a minimum of four feet from the house.

20. Turn off and drain all of your outdoor plumbing including hose connections, pool connections, sprinkler systems, etc. After you’ve turned off the water, leave faucets in the “on” position and remove any plastic components.

21. Drain the gas from your lawn mower and service your snow blower with a tune-up.

For more information on weathering winter this season, visit www.greatwinterweatherparty.org or www.flash.org

Black Friday Winter Preparedness Gift Ideas from FLASH

Black-Friday-Graphic

With families experiencing colder-than-normal temperatures already during the month of November and with freezing temperatures over the Thanksgiving holiday, the FLASH team suggests adding a few winter safety items to your Black Friday shopping list.

There’s no better gift than one that offers your loved ones safety and protection and even has the potential to save their lives. FLASH developed a comprehensive list of winter-weather preparedness gift-giving ideas that can protect friends’ and families’ homes and ensure their safety.

Winter storms from coast to coast are redefining this year’s must-have gift list. Here are suggested gifts that provide Comfort and Security as well as Home Mitigation:

Comfort & Security

  • AM/FM radios w/extra batteries
  • Automobile power inverters
  • Blankets
  • Carbon monoxide detectors
  • First-aid kits
  • Hand-crank powered appliances such as cell phone chargers, power supplies, radios and weather radio
  • Cell phone battery pack or case
  • LED flash lights w/extra batteries
  • FLASH Weather Alerts app
  • Power generators
    • Portable gasoline-powered generators
    • Permanent LP or natural gas standby generators
    • Solar-powered backpack to charge laptops, tablets, music players and other portable devices

Home Mitigation

  • Attic insulation
  • Insulated doors
  • Insulated faucet domes
  • Storm doors
  • Portable generators
  • Standby generators
  • Gift certificates for professional home inspections
  • Gift certificates for professional winterization services
  • Insulation for hose bibs, exposed plumbing, pool equipment
  • Weather stripping
  • Replacement windows

For a complete list of tips on how to stay safe and comfortable during power outages, click here. For more tips and resources on winter safety visit www.greatwinterweatherparty.org. For comprehensive disaster safety and home mitigation information on weather of all kinds visit www.flash.org.

Winter Tip: Foam, Dome, Drip!

With just three simple steps families can protect themselves from costly extreme cold pipe damage. Visit our Pinterest page for more preparedness tips!

Winter weather tips

When water freezes in a pipe it expands and can exert pressure over 2,000 pounds per square inch. This pressure is enough to rupture most any pipe filled with water. When the pipe bursts it can spill several hundred gallons of water per hour, resulting in the second most common cause of home insurance claims in America.

Remember:  FOAM, DOME, DRIP.

FOAM:  Insulate pipes exposed to the elements or cold drafts.  For as little as $1 per 6’ of insulation, you can stop pipes from freezing and save energy.

DOME:  Placing an insulating dome or other coverings on outdoor faucets and spigots also reduce the likelihood of the water in your homes pipes freezing, expanding and causing a costly leak.

DRIP:  Drip your faucets, to you reduce the build-up of pressure in the pipes.  Even if the pipes freeze, you have released the pressure from the water system reducing the likelihood of a rupture.  If you are going out of town, and you suspect they temperatures will drop, turn off the water to your home and open all of the taps to drain the water system. This way you won’t return to a frozen, soggy mess.

For more information on protecting your home from extreme cold conditions, visit www.flash.org. For severe weather alerts and mitigation tips, download FLASH Weather Alerts at www.flashweatheralerts.org.

Winter Weather Tips

Super heroes drip faucets so pipes don’t burst when the temperatures drop.

Winter Weather Tip

When water freezes in a pipe it expands and can exert pressure over 2,000 pounds per square inch. This pressure is enough to rupture almost any pipe filled with water. When the pipe bursts it can spill several hundred gallons of water per hour, resulting in the second most common cause of home insurance claims in America.

With just three simple steps, families can protect themselves from this costly damage.  Remember:  FOAM, DOME, DRIP.

FOAM:  Insulate pipes exposed to the elements or cold drafts.  For as little as $1 per 6’ of insulation, you can stop pipes from freezing and save energy.

DOME:  Placing an insulating dome or other coverings on outdoor faucets and spigots also reduces the likelihood of the water in your homes pipes freezing, expanding and causing a costly leak.

DRIP:  Drip your faucets to reduce the build-up of pressure in the pipes.  Even if the pipes freeze, you have released the pressure from the water system reducing the likelihood of a rupture.  If you are going out of town and suspect the temperatures will drop, turn off the water to your home and open all of the taps to drain the water system. This way you won’t return to a frozen, soggy mess.

For more information on protecting your home from extreme cold conditions, visit www.flash.org. For severe weather alerts and mitigation tips, download FLASH Weather Alerts at www.flashweatheralerts.org.