Archive for the 'Winter' Category

Preventing Frozen Pipes

Jun. 2nd 2012

When, in the dead of winter, water freezes within a pipe, it expands, slowly but surely, until it causes the pipe to burst. When this occurs, you’re in for serious trouble, especially if it’s your heating system that has just bitten the dust. if you have young children in your home who depend on heat to keep them healthy, the dimensions of the disaster are magnified even further.

It may be of interest to some readers to note that that the formation of ice within a pipe is not what normally causes the rupture. Most people will be inclined to think that the expansion of ice within the pipe is what does the damage. But, in fact, when ice forms within the pipe and completely blocks it, the water pressure trapped within that pipe will increase and begin to move downward, trending toward the closed faucet at the end of that pipe.

When the water pressure built up against the closed faucet increases to such a point that the faucet can no longer hold up against that pressure, the pipe will burst, with flooding and freezing as the natural result. The pipe will usually tend to burst precisely at the point where no or very little ice has actually formed – a fact which can puzzle even the most seasoned of winter veterans. The true culprit of pipe rupture and breakage is inadequate insulation, whether within the building the pipes are part of, or within the pipe itself.

The best way to keep pipes in your home from freezing is simply not to expose them to frigid winter temperatures in the first place. If it is at all possible to place them only in spaces which are adequately heated or thickly insulated, by all means do so. Keep your pipes out of your attics and off of your outside walls. If it is possible to reroute or replace altogether older pipes which have served through many past winter seasons, you should do so. The longer a set of pipes has been in service in an area which is vulnerable to freezing temperatures, the more likely they will be to finally give out under the pressure of age and fatigue.

Seal up all the holes and cracks in your walls and foundations and, likewise, plaster up all the holes in your inside walls and window ledges and crevices as well. The less freezing outside air you let into your home, the better. And this goes double for the areas where your water pipes are. If you can install or reroute pipes into kitchen or bathroom cabinets, this will keep frigid winter air from affecting them there. Insulate the insides of your kitchen or bathroom cabinets with a bit of fiberglass coating, to insure that no cold air reaches these precious pipes. The more preventative measures you take before winter comes, the more chance your pipes have to survive the coming ordeal.

If it comes to the worst, and a rupture does occur, the following actions are recommended. The first course of action you should take should be to close off your pipe’s supply line valve (where the water first enters the pipe), and then open the faucet, which you will find at the end of the pipe. This faucet may, in fact, already have been forced open by the water escaping during the breakage. At any rate, you should then examine closely the entire length of the ruptured pipe.

Check carefully for any tell tale cracks, symmetrical breakages, or holes which may have been forced open in the pipe by the escaping water. The best place to look for a broken pipe will most likely be outside of your home, somewhere on the outside walls, or in crawl spaces adjoining your cellar or garage. Upstairs in the attic might be the next logical place to check, as pipes placed in that area tend to get forgotten about, and thus neglected through the years, until such a breakage finally occurs.

Next, you’ll want to thaw out the ruptured pipe. Shut off the supply line valve before you do so, so that as little water as possible can escape out of the pipe once it begins flowing again! Once you’ve managed to positively identify the source of the breakage, and exactly where it took place, grab a hair dryer and use it to thaw out the area that surrounds the ruptured area. This is in order to ascertain whether or not you can manage to get water flowing again through the pipe. If you can get the water flowing, then it’s time to patch up the hole to prevent water leakage from damaging the floor.

Once you have successfully managed to thaw out the ruptured pipe, you can begin to repair it. You’ll need a pipe cutter, or perhaps a hack saw. Regardless of which of these instruments you choose, you’ll also need to have some basic welding skills if you are to perform this task by yourself. If you lack these skills, it might be best to call in a professional who can perform the job, so as to minimize the risk of botching it.

If you do possess these skills, then you will need to use the pipe cutter or hacksaw to remove the section of pipe that has been compromised. Once you’ve done so, you’ll then proceed to replace the damaged section with a new bit of pipe. To do so properly, you’ll need a propane welding torch, as well as the proper soldering gear, to weld the new section of pipe into the existing sections. Once this is done, switch the supply line valve back on, and test the pipe to see if any fresh leakage occurs.

If the join was successful, no further action should be necessary. However, keep in mind that even the best welding patch job is a temporary solution. You will have to replace the entire pipe as soon as possible, in order to ensure that no further breakages occur. Still, this patch up job should hold you and your family through the night, until morning comes and you can venture out to the nearest store to purchase the new pipe. Good luck!

Posted by plumber | in DIY, Leaks, Pipes, Winter | No Comments »

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