Don’t Let Your Pipes Burst!

WRITER | MATT DAVIDSON

Winter in Michigan is a time of great beauty, but along with pristine snowscapes, it may also bring seasonal hazards to your home. One of the more expensive of these hazards is having a pipe freeze and burst. Costs to repair the pipes and to clean up and repair any water damage can run from $500 in a best-case scenario simple fix into tens of thousands of dollars if extensive water damage occurs. Luckily, a little planning and some simple preventative actions can stave off the risks of the dreaded burst pipes.

Wes Steffen, master plumber with Roto-Rooter of Traverse City, shared some things that people can do to avoid any issues.

Heat wrap is effective at keeping water pipes from freezing, especially in areas that don’t receive adequate warm air circulation. There are many different options available in whatever length you may require, and it’s relatively easy to do yourself. That said, professionals are always willing to come out to ensure that all at-risk pipes are covered. You’ll require an electric outlet and access to your water piping and knowledge of which pipes carry water in your home.

Make sure that your insulation is in good shape and that there aren’t any entrance points for freezing air to enter your house. Check your basement and crawl spaces as well as any areas where water pipes are located for insulation that has come loose or been carried off by rodents. It’s also a good idea to check for drafts and to seal any problem spots with sealant foam.

“Keeping your cabinet doors open will help warm air reach areas where pipes may burst,” Steffen notes. On those bitterly cold days when you can’t seem to get warm no matter how high your thermostat is set, remember that the space under your sink needs warmth, too. A few stubbed shins on cabinet doors are much better than the alternative damage to your pocketbook should a pipe burst.

Steffen also suggests that you keep a trickle of water running from your faucets. On the really cold days, just keeping the water moving a bit will help stop your pipes from freezing. If you happen to have water service in your garage, it’s especially important to keep a flow going, as garages tend to be much colder than the rest of your house. Not only is it an easy area to forget about, but the damage may not be noticed as quickly as a cracked pipe inside your home.

Steffen also points out that, “If you plan to be gone for an extended period, it isn’t a bad idea to drain the water from your lines and shut off the flow.” Pipes can’t freeze if there’s no water running through them. This especially applies to snowbirds who head for warmer weather during Michigan’s frigid winter months. Some of the worst-case scenarios have occurred in homes where pipes burst while no one was in residence and water filled basements, which can damage the very foundation of your home.

As with most things associated with homeownership, an ounce of preventative maintenance is worth a pound of cure. It will save you major headaches on days when you’d much rather be curled up with a good book instead of frantically trying to coax a professional to come out right away.