Frozen Pipes: Facts and Prevention


Every winter, many homeowners find themselves in a bit of a situation, as they experience frozen plumbing and even burst pipes. Prevent frozen pipes from happening to you this winter, and keep these tips, warnings and damaging facts in mind to avoid becoming another freezing victim:

Fact – More than 250,000 families and homes experience frozen and/or burst pipes each year in the U.S.

Fact – It’s estimated that anywhere from 11% – 20% (or more) of homeowner’s insurance claims each year are due to water damage and freezing.  

Fact – Water expands 10% when it freezes.

Fact – On average, freezing pipes and water damage insurance claims cost around $7,307

Fact – When temperatures suddenly drop, pipes are even more likely to freeze.

Fact – Pipes don’t always burst when they freeze.  In fact, the frozen area usually just expands along the length of the pipe.

Which Homes Are Most Vulnerable to Frozen Pipes?

Fact – Houses built before the 1960s, when insulation first started improving, are more vulnerable to damage from frozen pipes.

Fact – Houses with recent basement renovations conducted with the intent to improve insulation are more at risk for potential damage.  This is because wasted heat prior to the insulation kept all exposed pipes warmer.

What Conditions Can Cause Bursting Pipes?

Fact – Bends in the pipe can cause bursts when frozen.  This happens because the bend can trap the expansion of the frozen area; it just pools at the bow.  

Fact – Old pipes can cause bursts when frozen.  This happens because there can be built up debris inside of the pipe that has collected over time.


Prevention is all about laying the groundwork.  You must take preventive measures now so that you don’t pay later.  Here are some invaluable tips to help you get through the winter:

  • Insulate any pipes that are in colder areas of your home with foam.
  • Heater tape (between pipe and foam) or heater cables might also be needed in addition to the foam (depending on the level of exposure and expected temperature drops).
  • Replace plumbing that is old and clog-prone.
  • Seal any and all insulation gaps near plumbing.
  • Re-route any pipes that are exposed to the cold.
  • Each Fall, turn off any valves for your outdoor water supply.  Then, empty the tap and shut it securely.
  • Make sure you get your heating system checked in the fall to help prevent breakdowns.
  • Allow warm air to circulate to cold zones in your home if plumbing is vulnerable in that area.  This includes opening cabinets under sinks.
  • During severe cold spells, you might want to set your heating system to maintain a warmer temperature overnight.  
  • If you’re going on vacation, ask your house sitter to check all taps and toilets for water flow.  Also, consider shutting the main water valve to your home and raining the plumbing by opening all of your taps until no more water escapes.  And finally, turn off your hot water tank.
  • When you’re away from home, keep your heat set to a normal temperature.
  • Open all taps to allow water to drip, as it prevents a freeze-up during a loss of power and heat.  While it may waste some water, a flood would waste a LOT more.
  • If water stops coming into your home, go ahead and close the main water valve, and drain your plumbing by opening all of your taps.  

What to Do If Your Pipes Freeze

If water flow into your home suddenly stops, and the weather is cold, your pipes may be frozen.  A freeze can be confined to some pipes, and leave others working.  So, if you find yourself with frozen pipes, you should:

  • Shut down your water supply.
  • Don’t panic.
  • Don’t use your toilet.
  • Attempt some DIY thawing tips.  For small freezes, a good hair dryer or space heater can un-thaw pipes.  Just don’t leave them unattended, and never, ever use an open flame.
  • Call a professional if your pipes remain frozen.

Prepare for bad weather ahead of time, and if you find yourself in a bit of a freezing situation, give your team at Tritan Plumbing a call!


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