Friday, January 9, 2015

Frozen Pipes

The phone rings; I see that it is 3:30 am. My son Tom is on the phone. I know something bad has happened. A pipe has froze and burst. I feel sick for him. We have had days of sub-zero weather and now at 3:30 am, on a Friday morning, the temperature has risen just enough that the water has started to flow. The blessings in this bad situation quickly become evident. He was up early to go to work and heard the sound of water running within seconds of the spray appearing. Second, the broken pipe is in the garage.

The water is turned off but another problem appears: the broken pipe is part of the heating system. The temperature in the house is starting to drop.

My dad was a plumber and soldered countless thousands of copper pipe fittings in his long career. I watched him as he worked like an artist. Fittings and pipe cleaned, flux applied, the right amount of heat from the torch and the solder flows into the joint. The torch is removed and in a final flourish he wipes the joint. He made it look so easy and in the ideal situation it can be. Repairs on old pipe are something else. Even for an expert they can be difficult.

I worked many summers with my Dad and picked up numerous plumbing skills. Soldering was not one of them. It wasn’t something that I had much practice at and never felt comfortable doing it especially in repair situations. It’s not something I do as a handyman for those and a few other reasons.

With my son Tom’s situation I wished it was a skill I had. I knew we needed a plumber and sooner rather than later. With his heating system shut down I worry that other pipes could be in danger of freezing.

Thankfully, a plumber is located who can come later in the morning. That is a small miracle as many other broken pipes across town are keeping plumbers swamped.

So what can be done in sub-zero times to help avoid broken pipes? Here are some tips from Garvin’s Sewer Service:

Frozen Pipes: What to do if you have them

If you find yourself with frozen pipes, here are some tips to help you out (and hopefully prevent a water emergency and/or needing a plumber).

1. Make sure your heat is turned up to 75 degrees, open cupboard doors.

2. Turn your main water off 95% of the way if you are at home. If you are away, turn it off completely. (Your main shut off valve will most likely be in your basement or crawlspace.)

3. Leave the affected faucets on to allow water to come through and thaw pipes.

4. If you have a space heater, put it under the affected areas to heat the pipes. (a hair-dryer is an alternative option)

5. If your home has a crawlspace, make sure all vents to the outside are CLOSED.

Special notes: If NONE of the water pipes in your home are producing water, than your main water line may be the affected pipe, in which case, you will need to contact a plumber.

These are great tips. Garvin’s is a good company too. I have recommended them many times for sewer cleaning and general plumbing work. I do a lot of plumbing work but there are many times an expert needs to be called.

I hope you don’t ever have to experience a frozen or broken pipe. An interesting fact is that the pipe breaks from freezing but it will usually not leak until it thaws out. Another tip is to always make sure hoses are disconnected from outside faucets in the winter.

If I can ever be of service to you please don’t hesitate to call. You can reach me at 303-232-3347.


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