The winter months, along with the typically colder temperatures, can cause a slew of problems for property owners. When the temperatures drop, frozen water pipes can become a major concern. If you receive a call from a tenant in the middle of the winter saying there is no water coming out of his or her faucet, it is possible that a plumbing pipe has frozen. Learn the types of pipes that are vulnerable to freezing, how to tell if a pipe is actually frozen and why you should act quickly to thaw it out.
Why Are Frozen Pipes a Problem?
Frozen pipes are a problem for a couple of reasons. They can create an inconvenience but, more seriously, can cause major damage to your property.
- Lack of Running Water– The most obvious danger of a frozen pipe is the inability to access running water. This can interfere with your tenant’s ability to do everyday tasks such as washing the dishes or taking a shower. It is a landlord’s responsibility to make sure his or her tenants have running water.
- Potential to Burst- The second problem that can occur when a pipe freezes is the pipe actually bursting. Once the actual water in the pipe freezes, pressure is created between the closed faucet and the blockage that can build up to a point that causes the pipe to explode.
Pipes That Are Vulnerable to Freezing
There are some pipes that are more vulnerable to freezing than others:
- Southern Climates- Pipes that are located in climates which rarely see cold temperatures may be particularly vulnerable to freezing. This is due to the lack of insulation around the pipes. Since these areas rarely see temperatures around 32 degrees Fahrenheit, water pipes are more likely to be located in areas or the property which are not properly insulated against the cold.
- Exterior Walls- Water pipes that are located along the exterior walls of a home can be vulnerable to freezing. This is because they may not have the adequate amount of insulation protecting them from the exterior temperatures.
- Attics and Basements- Pipes that are located in attics or in basements may also have a greater tendency to freeze. These pipes may not receive the same amount of heat as the rest of the property. If these areas are not used as living space, they also may not be adequately insulated.
Signs of Frozen Pipes
There are a couple of clues which can help you determine if you have frozen pipes at your property:
- The Temperature Is Right- Pipes cannot freeze if it is not cold enough outside for them to do so. Water does not freeze when it is 60 degrees Fahrenheit outside, and neither do pipes. When the temperature falls to 32 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, you should begin to take precautions to prevent vulnerable pipes from freezing.
- There Is Frost on the Pipe- For pipes that can actively be seen, such as those under sinks, you may be able to see frost that has accumulated on the exterior of the pipe. This can serve as a warning sign that the pipe is frozen before you ever try to turn on the faucet.
- No Water Is Coming Out of the Faucet- Another sign that you may have a frozen pipe on your hands is lack of running water. If you or a tenant turn on a kitchen or bathroom faucet and only a slight trickle of water or no water at all comes out, the water pipe leading to the faucet may be frozen.
Once you are aware that a pipe is frozen, you must act quickly to thaw the pipe. Depending on the location of the pipe and your level of expertise, you can attempt to thaw the pipe yourself or you can contact a licensed plumber to thaw the pipe for you. It is imperative to thaw the pipe as soon as possible because it has the potential to burst and cause extensive damage to your property.