A basement flood in your home or rental property can happen at any time, especially during the winter months with freezing temperatures. Burst pipes due to freezing can cause dreadful damage to personal belongings, like clothing, furniture, and electronics. As well, it can cause structural damage requiring mitigation and restoration treatment. If closing the water shut-off valve is not done quickly the water damage cleanup can add up. Floors can warp and swell, and mould can grow behind baseboards in walls, floors and ceilings. The smell of mold can set-in and become unbearable.
“ It’s important to fix the source of the problem quickly when dealing with frozen pipes” says Murdock Brooks from Burke’s Restoration Inc. They answer calls and dispatch crews 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Their emergency plumber will first isolate the broken pipes and begin the repair and replacement. Professional restoration crews will begin water extraction immediately with portable and submersible pumps. Their industrial dehumidifiers and high-speed air movers are brought in to blow air on walls, carpets, and furniture so as to evaporate moisture and prevent mould. Personal belongings will be removed for cleaning and the plumber, electrician and building contractors are on-call and quickly on-site to fix the damage due to cracked or burst pipes.
Take steps to help prevent this sort of damage to your property. Simply understanding and communicating effectively that the pipes in your home or rental unit can freeze in cold weather is your first line of defense in preventing frozen pipes.
Here are 10 tips to prevent your pipes from bursting and causing water flooding in your home:
- Freezing temperatures cause water inside the pipes to freeze and expand into ice. This creates pressure inside the pipes causing them to crack and form slow water leaks behind walls and under floors and ceilings. Eventually the cracks cause burst pipes and flood your home or business.
- Remember to remind your tenants and family members that freezing temperatures can cause frozen pipes leaving them without water. Inform them that frozen pipes crack when water turns to ice. This results in pressure building-up from inside causing cracked pipes. When the air temperature goes back up and the ice defrosts, water pressure can cause burst pipes and water flooding with potentially greater losses due to substantial damage to property.
- The losses can mean thousands of dollars being spent to repair the water damage including structural damage as well having to replace the personal items of a tenant in a rental unit that has been destroyed by water.
- Shut off the outside water taps, and drain the water from any standing pipes, sprinklers and hoses. If you are a landlord, remember to show your tenant how to shut the outside water taps and emphasize the importance of draining the water from any pipes, sprinklers and hoses. Most tenants won’t assume that they are responsible for this winter maintenance and that it must be done before the temperature drops to below freezing. They may never have done this before.
- A new homeowner or tenant may come from another country and have little experience with freezing temperatures and pipes. If you are a landlord expecting your tenant to do this winter maintenance then provide them with the hands-on training, a written fact sheet and a contact number to reach you in case they need to. Don’t assume that tenants will undertake this job without your having reviewed and discussed this winter maintenance program with them. It is preferable that you do so in person.
- A new homeowner or new tenants may not realize that winter temperatures can swing radically, creating milder temperatures during the day and freezing temperatures at night. Opening a window in mild temperatures and forgetting about it might cause the surrounding pipes in the wall to freeze.
- Owners and tenants trying to save on the cost of heat by turning it down really low or off at times should be warned that it can result in false savings when your pipes freeze and burst.
- Know where to find your main water shut-off valve and how it works to shut the water off in freezing temperatures. Once the tap is turned off drain all your pipes by turning on the taps in the bathrooms, laundry room and kitchens and running the leftover water in the pipes down the drain until it stops.
- If you have tenants, physically show them exactly where and how to close the main water shut-off valve, give them a fact sheet with your contact number on it.
- A fact sheet can be made up very quickly by using your cell phone to take photographs of the shut-off valve. Include pictures of how to close it. These instructions can be sent by email or text message to tenants, and to family and neighbours who might be asked to check your place while you are away.
If you are experiencing frozen pipes, you may need to add insulation around them. Air leaks are invisible, consider contacting a restoration and renovation company for advice on how best to protect your home. They have specialized equipment that identifies the source of air leaks, moisture and mold. Avoid freezing damages when you are away. Ensure that warm air is circulating throughout every room by opening doors. Always have someone check your property when you are away for longer than 48 hours and review your insurance policy.