Sandown Plumbing

Isle of Wight Plumbing guide to preventing frozen pipes.

frozen pipesBurst freezing pipes lead to about a quarter million families suffering catastrophic water damage to their houses each year. That’s the big picture. The small picture works like this: A section of one of your hot or cold water pipes is exposed to below freezing temperatures. You don’t use the water in that pipe during the time it takes for an ice plug to develop.
As the ice plug grows, it compresses the water between the plug and the faucet(s) at the end of that line. The pressure becomes extreme and bursts the pipe, sometimes in an area away from the ice plug. The plug thaws. Water spews out of the crack, irreparably damaging walls, floors and your possessions. Another scenario goes like this: You take immediate action to thaw and relieve pressure on frozen pipes and then take short- and long-term steps to prevent
refreezing. We’ll give you some pointers here.

Paintable acrylic caulk is good for sealing small gaps, especially in
areas where appearance is important. Pipe insulation products include narrow strips of fibreglass, foam insulation tubes sized to fit
common pipe sizes, and preformed valve covers for protecting outdoor faucets (hose bibs). Foil tape may be used to secure
and seal pipe insulation products. Thermostatically controlled heat
cables prevent pipes that are exposed to long periods of below
freezing temperatures from freezing. Expanding foam (not shown
here) is effective for stopping large cold air leaks, although it
can be unsightly.

H O W  T O  T H A W  P I P E S :
Open the faucet affected by the frozen pipe. Beginning at the faucet, use a hair dryer to warm the pipe, working back toward the likely area of the freeze. Leave water on until full flow is restored, then take steps to prevent refreezing.

Leave vulnerable lines open to a fast drip if you suspect any of your supply pipes may be in imminent danger of freezing. Even slowly moving water will not freeze. This may not be water and energy efficient (although if you’re around, you can collect water in a bucket), but it gives you time to come up with a permanent solution.

Insulate pipes that pass through unavoidably cold spaces like crawl
spaces and attics. Measure a pipe’s diameter by closing an adjustable wrench on it and then measuring the span of the wrench jaws. Measure the length of pipes to be insulated so you know how
many linear feet of insulation to buy. Buy self-sealing side-slit foam tubes for pipes of your diameter(s). Cut double 45-degree notches with a scissors to turn corners (inset photo). Seal all slits and
joints that are not self-adhering with foil tape.

Isle of Wight Plumbing has lots more useful plumbing advice on our other pages