Bursting pipes are a problem but non-existent pipes are even worse!
PuroClean Restoration Services of Cranford, NJ, completed a job for a minister who had a house with water damage, because someone came in and stole all the copper piping from inside his walls! We had to mitigate mold damage -- cut the walls, and rebuild them after.
Even though we hope most of us will never experience this kind of theft, frozen pipes are still a real danger.
When water cools, its density increases and it settles to the bottom of a container. However, at 32º F, it expands and, therefore, its density decreases! This expansion increases the volume of water by about 11% and creates tremendous pressure on its container. No matter the strength of a material, expanding water will cause it to break.
Pipes are especially vulnerable to damage caused by expanding water. Water lines that freeze are usually those directly exposed to severe cold, such as outdoor hose bibs, swimming pool supply lines, or sprinkler lines.
In addition, pipes in unheated interior areas such as basements, crawl spaces, attics, garages, and kitchen cabinets, and those that run against exterior walls with little or no insulation are also susceptible to freezing.
A number of variables contribute to freeze damage:
The type of building construction; the quality and quantity of insulation; the decline in temperature; the direction and force of wind; and other weather-related conditions are all contributing factors.
Rust or corrosion weakens pipes, making leaks more likely to occur. When freeze-expansion occurs, corroded pipes will often split open. When thawing begins or when the water is turned back on, damage can occur.
To prevent frozen pipes, Midwestern officials recommend:
Seal cracks: Caulk around door frames and windows and around pipes where they enter the house to reduce incoming cold.
Protect outdoor pipes and faucets: In some homes, the outside faucet has its own shut-off in the basement in addition to the shut-off valve for the entire house. If you have a separate valve for outside faucets, close the valve, remove hoses and drain the faucet.
Open cupboard doors in the kitchen and bathrooms: Water lines supplying these rooms are often on outside walls, and open doors allow for greater heat.
Wishing you warmth this winter,
Chris and Robin Hoy, Cranford New Jersey