Forecast: Wicked Cold. Prevent Frozen Pipes

The local forecast is for cold weather for the rest of the week. By Thursday or Friday, Greater Portland could experience the coldest air mass we’ve seen in 5 years.

Many homes experience frozen water pipes in weather like this. Often, the homeowner made improvements to the home (additions, remodeling, etc.), and the insulation that was placed in the remodeled area wasn’t sufficient to protect the domestic water pipes.

If you’ve made such improvements in the last 5 years or so, this week will be the harshest test your home has had to endure since then.

Save yourself some trouble by checking the insulation (if it’s visible) in these areas of your home.

Here are some other cold weather hints:

In Especially Cold Weather

  • Keep cupboard doors open below sinks. This allows warm air to circulate, and helps keep pipes from freezing.
  • Turn on hot and cold faucets enough to let them drip slowly. Keeping water moving through the pipes prevents freezing.

If You Leave Home for More than a Day

  • Keep the temperature at the minimum 65 degrees F. People often set their thermostats lower than this and assume they’ll be ok. They find out the hard way that the temperature in the living space may be fine, but the temperature inside the walls, where the pipes are, may not.
  • Have someone check your home regularly. If there is a problem with frozen pipes or water leakage, early discovery can save major damage.
  • Use a “temperature alarm”. Many people use a low-cost fixture available at the hardware store that installs on a household lamp, turning on the lamp when the temperature drops below 60 F. Install a colored bulb in the lamp, and alert your neighbors to keep an eye out for the light. Others tie a low-temperature alarm into their home security system.

If You Think Your Pipes are Frozen

Don’t wait for them to burst. Take measures to thaw them immediately, or call a plumber for assistance. Do NOT attempt to thaw them yourself with any sort of flame!

If Your Pipes Do Burst…
Even a 1″ split in a pipe can cause thousands of dollars in damage in a short time. You need to act quickly to prevent additional damage.

  • Turn off the water!
  • Clean up the water. You don’t want more damage than you already have. An insurance adjuster doesn’t need to see the water, but will want to inspect any damaged items.
  • If you have a lot of water, contact a remediation contractor. Your insurance agent can help you locate one.
  • Remove any carpets, furniture, or other items that can be damaged from further seepage.

Making an Insurance Claim

Many standard homeowners policies cover most of the kinds of damage that can result from a freeze. If house pipes freeze and burst, or if ice forms in gutters and causes water to back up under roof shingles and leak, the resulting water damage is normally covered. Not all policies are alike. Contact your agent to be sure what your policy covers.

Filing a claim:

  • Call your agent or company as soon as you notice the damage. Noyes Hall & Allen clients can find their insurance company claim emergency phone number and other instructions here. If your agent or company requests you to do so, follow up with a written explanation of what happened.
  • Make temporary repairs and take other steps to protect your property from further damage.
  • Save the receipts for what you spend and submit them to your insurance company for reimbursement.
  • Make a list of damaged articles. If your home is so severely damaged that you cannot live there, save the receipts from any additional living expenses you incur for accomodations while repairs are being made.