Frozen pipes and water damage

February 12, 2016 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

The best method to handle frozen plumbing is to take steps to avoid it.  Most insurance policies will pay for water damage caused by frozen pipes as well as pipe repair and the cost to tear out and replace necessary elements to access the pipes.  But there are also many requirements to be covered for such loss:  if the building is vacant, unoccupied or under construction an insured is required to to their best to maintain heat in the building or to completely drain the plumbing.  Automatic oil delivery is one way to demonstrate that you are doing your best to maintain heat with an oil furnace, but regular service of any heating system is also necessary.  Having a service contract can fulfill a portion of your obligation.  If the plumbing is to be drained, be sure to have it done professionally so you can prove it, or if you must undertake it yourself, having a compressor and blowing air through the lines after draining will eliminate low spots where water can accumulate.  Also be sure to winterize all drains and toilets.  Toilets should be shut off, flushed and anti freeze put in both the tank and the bowl.  Antifreeze should be poured into all other drains.

Sometimes the best efforts will not stop plumbing from freezing.  Pipes that are next to exterior walls are more susceptible to freezing and buildings with poor or no insulation stand a greater chance that the interior might be warm but a pipe run or basement pipe may freeze.  Often a frozen pipe will not leak until it actually thaws, as the frozen ice is a block to the water escaping.  Sometimes pipes can freeze without damage.  In such cases a pipe can be thawed with a hair dryer, but avoid heat guns and torches which commonly cause fires when attempting to thaw pipes.

Some things you can do to avoid frozen plumbing (especially if it has occurred previously) is to keep cabinet doors under sinks open so that the room air can heat the space, or open faucets just slightly to created a drip.  Just like running streams do not usually freeze, the water moving in pipes may prevent the line from freezing.  If there are pipe runs in an unheated or poorly heated basement, they can be insulated but that is not always effective.  It is more effective to be sure there is insulation in the basement, especially if there is any open framing on an exterior wall.  There is often space between the top of a masonry foundation and the floor above it, and the exterior walls of that space need to be insulated.

If all else fails and you do have water damage from frozen plumbing, heating, air conditioning, sprinkler system or domestic appliance, immediately notify your insurance company and hire a mitigation company to come to pump out water and to dry the premises.  Take plenty of photos to demonstrate the damage as it occurred.  Do NOT throw damaged items away, as an insurance company has the right to inspect them before payment.  Feel free to call us if you need advice or assistance with your claim.