8 tips to prevent frozen pipes and ice dams this winter
Posted: December 19, 2022 | Word Count: 830
Before winter sets in, you should prepare your home for winter to avoid expensive repairs down the road. Frozen pipes and ice dams are the most common problems that can lead to costly repairs. According to State Farm, this year alone, burst pipes and ice dams cost $181 million in claims, averaging $20,000 per claim.
Even if you live in a warmer state, don't skimp on preparing your home for the cooler months. It may be hard to believe, but in 2021 and 2022, Texas was the No. 1 state with losses because of pipes and dams. This year, total claims in Texas cost $64 million.
If you want to protect your home from winter damage, check out these eight tips to help prevent frozen or burst pipes and ice dams.
1. Secure outdoor hoses, valves and faucets
Before winter hits, take a walk around your front and back yard and disconnect your garden hose. If possible, use an indoor valve to shut off and drain water from pipes leading to outside faucets. These simple measures can reduce the chance of freezing in the short span of pipe just inside the house.
2. Let water drip and open cabinet doors
Most of the time, frozen pipes are preventable by simply leaving cabinet doors open and letting your faucets drip. Keeping cabinet doors open keeps the pipes warm by allowing airflow from the room, while letting the faucet drip keeps warmer water flowing through the pipes, making it more difficult to freeze. Also, an open faucet acts as a release that can help prevent pressure from building up inside the pipe and bursting.
3. Watch your thermostat
During the winter, keep your thermostat set at the same temperature day and night to reduce the risk of frozen pipes. This can also help reduce the strain on your furnace during extremely cold weather.
If you have a vacation home, set your thermostat to at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Also, make sure before you leave for a while that you replace the battery in your thermostat.
4. Insulate pipes and keep them warm
Exposed pipes are most susceptible to freezing. Even if you live in a climate where freezing is uncommon, you're best off insulating the pipes in your home's crawl spaces and attic. You can also use heat tape or thermostatically controlled heat cables that wrap around your pipes and keeps them warm even in freezing conditions.
5. Insulate your attic
While you're insulating your pipes, check your attic's insulation. Ask a contractor to check the space to ensure the insulation in your attic space is adequate for the climate.
If you don't have insulation, consider installing some before winter sets in. Adding insulation to your attic can help prevent your home's warm air from escaping into unheated attic spaces, keep your pipes warm, and prevent ice dams from forming.
6. Seal leaks
Leaks in your home can make it easier for pipes to freeze and ice dams to form. Look for air leaks around electrical wiring, dryer vents and pipes and use caulk or insulation to keep the cold out. Verify all penetrations, access panels and electrical fixtures are properly sealed and insulated to prevent heat and moisture from entering the attic space.
7. Clean gutters
Before winter weather hits your area, clean your gutters of leaves and other debris. While this may not prevent ice dams, clean gutters can drain ice melt during a thaw.
8. Check the soffits
Verify that soffits (the exposed siding underneath your roof's overhang) and roof or ridge venting exist along your home's roof planes. Also, make sure that soffit vents aren't blocked by attic insulation or covered by newly installed maintenance-free finishes outside the home.
What to do if your pipes freeze and dams are damaged?
If you turn your faucet on and nothing comes out, it’s probably because your pipes are frozen. The first step is to turn off the water to the home. If your pipes have burst, you won’t know until it thaws. A 1/8-inch crack can spray more than 250 gallons of water a day, ruining floors, carpets, furniture and irreplaceable personal belongings. Next, open all your faucets and call a plumber. Look for cracks in your pipes and if one is identified, place a bucket below to reduce damage once the pipe thaws.
There are some short-term remedies for ice dams, but it's best to determine and fix the cause. Make sure to consult a trusted and competent professional who can get to the root of the problem, fix it and hopefully prevent it from happening again.
Using these tips, you can prepare your home for the winter and reduce your risk of burst pipes and ice dams. If your home suffers damage this winter, contact your local State Farm agent to see if it's covered under your homeowners policy. You can also check out more winter home maintenance at StateFarm.com/Simple-Insights.