Home & Garden

Are your home’s pipes vulnerable?

Owners of older homes are more likely to encounter frozen pipes, but the problem can happen to anyone; the likelihood depends on where the pipes are located and how they are insulated. Weak metal or plastic pipes that aren’t insulated are more susceptible to bursting or leaking. When temperatures drop dramatically, here is what to do if a pipe bursts in your home or apartment:

1. Shut off the water. Go to the home’s main water valve and shut it off immediately. (And don’t wait for a burst pipe to find out where the main water valve is located.) Electricity should also be cut off to the section of the home where the water damage has occurred. If you live in an apartment complex, contact your building manager or landlord.

2. Call a plumber. Not all plumbing companies have 24-hour service, so research and choose one in advance so you’re not scrambling after water floods your house. Plumbing costs vary depending on where the pipes are located and how bad the damage is, Thompson said. You may also need to contact a water damage professional, he said, particularly if carpeting, flooring, walls or ceilings are severely damaged.

3. Start removing water. This is important for preventing mold and mildew buildup, as well as costs associated with those problems. Mops, buckets, towels and a wet/dry vacuum may be needed.

Prevention tips

In very cold weather, let water drip from a faucet to help prevent freezing.

If you suspect a frozen pipe, thaw it yourself using a hair dryer, heating pad, space heater or warm washcloth, or call a professional.

If your faucet is not running or toilet is not refilling, there is a good chance a pipe is frozen.