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What to Do If Your Pipes Freeze

These are the steps you should take if your pipes freeze at home.

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During a winter storm, many things can affect your house. Whether it's cold temperatures, power failures, loss of phone or internet services, or icy roads that make travel dangerous, there are plenty of issues that come with the winter season. But frozen pipes, in particular, can do some serious damage to your investment in your home.

When outside temperatures drop below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, water pipes in homes with deficient insulation may freeze and possibly break. Where your home is located also matters. Places that anticipate lower temperatures have pipes better suited for cold temperatures that are less likely to burst.

State Farm estimates that 250,000 families are affected by frozen pipes each winter. Frozen pipes can cause pressure buildup inside the pipe, which may lead to it bursting. A busted pipe may cause serious flooding in your home, especially when there's no one around to turn off the water. According to the American Red Cross, the pipes that are most likely to freeze are ones that are exposed to extreme cold like outdoor hose bibs, swimming pool supply lines and water sprinkler lines, as well as water supply pipes in unheated interior areas like basements and crawl spaces, attics, garages or kitchen cabinets. Finally, pipes that run against exterior walls that have little or no insulation are also at risk of freezing.

One of the most common signs that your pipes are freezing is a slow faucet flow or being completely unable to access running water. If your water pressure starts to fluctuate, it could be a sign a pipe is busted somewhere in the house. If the pipes start making noises, that could be a sign a pipe is on its way to bursting. 

If you do encounter a frozen pipe, it is advised that you keep the faucet open. Apply heat to the section of the pipe that is frozen using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, an electric hairdryer or a portable space heater, or by wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water. Do not use a blowtorch, kerosene or any other device with an open flame.

Keep applying heat until the water pressure is fully restored. If you are unable to locate the frozen area, the frozen area is not accessible or you just cannot thaw the pipe, you need to seek professional help to avoid a bursted pipe. Calling the plumber could save you money in the long run. In 2018, State Farm estimated that bursted pipe repair costs were between $100 and $200 per foot and water cleanup and repair from an actual burst pipe may add another $1,000 to $2,000 in costs. 

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And while frozen pipes can happen anywhere the temperature dips below 20 degrees, you may be especially at risk if you live in one of the coldest cities in the world.