If water is not coming out of the faucet right now, there is a good chance your pipes may be frozen. But that doesn’t necessarily mean your pipes are busted, cracked, or broken. There are a few steps you can take right now to help prevent damage over the next few days.
Tim Jordan, Plumbing Service Manager for Abacus Plumbing and Air Conditioning and Electrical, says the Abacus team is busy answering calls from concerned customers. Here is what he says you should do right now.
If you haven’t already, shut off the water to your home immediately.
Do not attempt to thaw pipes without turning off the main shut-off valve. This way, if you do have a pipe burst, the damage would be limited since there will not be water to feed the leak.
If you can, fill up the bathtub with water before you shut it off.
(You may not have water flowing to do this.) Even if the water to your home is shut off you can still flush the toilet if you have water to add to the tank at the top.
Turn on the bathtub faucet or mainline into the house.
This way, when the pipes do start to thaw, there is an opening for water to drain through without building up pressure in the pipes. The pressure in the pipes could cause breaks.
“If your pipes are underground, it’s less likely the pipe is broken. It could be a pipe that is frozen in the attic, for example, pipes that go to the water heater,” said Jordan.
Should you try to thaw out pipes on your own?
There are conflicting reports if trying to thaw out your pipes is a good idea. You may hear about people using blow dryers or heating pads to thaw out frozen pipes. Jordan says to prevent damage to the pipes they are NOT recommending people try to thaw out their own pipes.
Your pipes are more likely to come out of this unbroken or cracked if you let them thaw out on their own when the weather warms up.
The process of thawing can be when the biggest problems appear
“When it starts getting warmer, that’s when we will start seeing more problems because the pipes are thawing,” said Jordan. “When the pipe thaws the pressure caused by the water begins to rush through the pipe and could cause the pipe to break.”
The pressure from unfrozen water between the ice and closed faucet is the main cause of ruptures in frozen pipes. (This is also why having the main water shut off is a good idea.)
How do I know if I should call a plumber for help?
Of course, if you have any visible signs of damage to pipes, call a plumber. You should also call if you see water ponding outside or even from the ceiling or walls. You might have to wait! Jordan (with Abacus Plumbing) says they are very busy right now and that all plumbers will be. He advises people to get on a list now for a plumber to come out and help asap.
File for insurance help ASAP
The Texas Department of Insurance says most homeowner policies cover sudden and accidental water damage. This is damage caused by things like a burst pipe, tub or toilet overflow, or a broken appliance hose. Most policies also cover damage if water gets into your house through a storm-damaged roof or window.
Coverage varies by policy, so read your policy or talk to your agent to know what’s covered. If your policy doesn’t cover water damage, you might be able to add the coverage to your policy. Check here for tips on cleaning up after a pipe burst.