Q: I’m worried about the possibility of freeze damage to water pipes. Any suggestions?
A: Water pipes that are installed in a crawl space under the home, in an attic or inside an exterior wall are subject to freeze damage as the temperatures continue to drop to record lows.
If you have a crawl space, make sure the vents, if any, are closed during the cold spell. Normally the pipes remain warm because the home loses some heat to the crawl space. If the pipes are too close to one of the foundation vents and there is a strong breeze, the pipes could freeze and split open.
Pipes in attics are also warmed to some extent by heat loss from the home. For the attic pipes to be protected, they must be covered with insulation.
Water pipes located inside older uninsulated exterior walls are also subject to freeze damage. If the pipes are exposed in an attic or in an uninsulated wall cavity, the main water supply to the home needs to be turned off. Store as much water as you can for cleaning, cooking and other necessities before shutting the water off. Once the water is off, open the highest and lowest faucets in the home to allow water to drain from the pipes.
Where there are sink faucets located on an exterior wall, check under the sink to see if the pipes are exposed or are inside the wall cavity.
To protect exposed pipes, leave the cabinet doors open. To protect pipes in an insulated wall cavity, leave the cabinet doors open and leave the faucets running at a slow but steady pace. Moving water is less likely to damage the pipes.
Never place an auxiliary heat source under a cabinet, in an attic or in a crawl space. Make sure all outside hoses have been removed from the faucets. Even an antifreeze hose faucet can be damaged if the hose is left in place during freezing weather.
C. Dwight Barnett is a certified master inspector with the American Society of Home Inspectors. Write to him with home improvement questions at C. Dwight Barnett, Evansville Courier & Press, PO Box 286, Evansville, Ind. 47702 or email him at d.Barnett@insightbb.com.