Each year, St Paul Pipeworks receives a call to a house where the metal water pipes have frozen in the house during the winter. These “freeze and break” situations occur when there isn’t enough heat in the house or when there is cold air blowing directly on the pipe and the water inside of the pipe freezes. The good news is that freezing pipes are easily preventable.

When water freezes it expands and eventually breaks open the copper or galvanized steel pipes. The newer pipe that is used for most water piping is PEX (short for Cross-Linked Polyethylene), and PEX pipe when frozen is more flexible and will not normally break.

Interestingly, any water damage in the home due to broken pipes will not appear until the water in the pipe starts to thaw out. Then the leaks will begin to appear. This usually takes more than 24-hours because the residual heat stays in the house. It typically takes two or three days without heat to freeze water in the pipes after the furnace or boiler or other heat source shuts off.

After a “freeze and break” occurs, there is a lot of detective work for the plumber to locate the break. Often homeowners and sometimes even insurance companies think that once a single “freeze and break” is repaired and the water is turned back on, the problem is over. Almost always, multiple breaks occur.

Inexperienced plumbers will fix the first leak and turn the water back on to find that there are one or more places where the pipes have been compromised and additional breaks and leaks need to be repaired. St Paul Pipeworks plumbers try to scope out where all the leaks are located first and determine if it is possible to reuse any of the pipes in the house.

Often, most or all of the piping in the home needs to be replaced. Unfortunately, a lot of the plumbing lines are located inside of walls and ceilings, concealed from easy inspection. It takes time to locate all broken pipes and either replace them all or individually repair all the breaks.

Other things can be affected by frozen pipes. Some appliances may have a little bit of water residue remaining in them that freezes up and ruins them. Clothes washers, dishwashers, and water heaters can all be affected. In addition, the waste P-traps under the fixtures may freeze and break. The water meter setup and outdoor lawn faucets that are not properly turned off in the Fall can break and cause damage. Typically, insurance companies will pay for restoration in this case. They will pay for the replacement plumbing and for the restoration of all the damage that has been caused.

Sometimes when people leave for long periods of time, they will simply turn off the main water supply to the house. The problem with that is if someone is coming into the house while you are away and needs to use a plumbing fixture or needs to get water for pets or to water plants, the water is off.

Also, just turning the water off is not enough to fully winterize the house when there will be no one living there for a period of time. The water heater and the water lines themselves also need to be emptied. St Paul Pipeworks plumbers recommend that people use an RV antifreeze to pour in the water-sealed waste P-traps so they do not freeze.

There are new technologies that people can use to help avoid. There are signaling properties that are in a lot of new smart home devices that will alert you when the heat is off in your house or if the temperature falls below a pre-set temperature. The homeowner will receive an alert to remotely turn off the water to the house. There is also equipment that attaches right to the plumbing that will shut the main plumbing off if the temperature gets too low.

St Paul Pipeworks encourage people to use one of them if they are going to be gone for an extended period during the winter. It is smart to be proactive about this and to purchase a device to tell you if you start to have a problem. It is best to use new technology, but if you cannot do that, have a neighbor stop at your house every three days, and if it is cold, to alert you that there is a problem.

If you have frozen pipes and water leaks in your house or are just looking for a quality plumber in the St. Paul and Minneapolis metro area, give St Paul Pipeworks a call today.

Yours Truly,

Matthew Dettwiler

Social Media Manager

Freezing Pipes: Keep your pipes safe in Minnesota winters