SEATTLE - While an arctic front continues to push temperatures
below freezing, now is the time to protect your home from frozen
pipes and costly repairs.
An average of a quarter-million families across the country have
their homes severely damaged each winter because water pipes freeze
An eighth-inch crack in a pipe can spew up to 250 gallons of
water in as little as 24 hours. That's more than enough to damage
hardwood floors, carpet and furniture. Repairs and clean-up costs
can be enormous.
"The holidays bring enough challenges without adding home repairs
to the list," said Karl Newman, NW Insurance Council president.
"Homeowners with burst pipes can return home to find water frozen
solid three to six inches deep. It's tragic and it's avoidable."
Standard Homeowners Insurance policies
cover winter-related disasters such as burst pipes and any associated
damage. However, it makes sense to prevent damage and avoid a
home disaster during the holidays.
NW Insurance Council
offers these tips to help you prevent pipes from freezing:
- Both plastic (PVC) and copper pipes are susceptible to bursting
due to freezing temperatures. Insulate pipes in your home's
garage, crawl spaces and attic. These exposed pipes are most
susceptible to freezing.
- Wrap at-risk pipes with heat tape or thermostatically controlled
heat cables. Be sure to use products approved by an independent
testing organization, such as Underwriters Laboratories Inc.
- Keep the house heated to a minimum of 65 degrees. The temperature
inside the walls where the pipes are located is substantially
colder than the walls themselves. Temperatures lower than 65
degrees may not keep pipes running through exterior walls from
- Open hot and cold faucets enough to let them drip slowly.
Keeping water moving within the pipes will prevent freezing.
- Seal air leaks that allow cold air inside, especially near
where pipes are located. Use caulk or insulation to keep the
cold out and the heat in.
- Disconnect garden hoses. Use indoor valves to shut off and
drain water from pipes leading to outside faucets. Cover outside
spigots with special Styrofoam insulators made for this purpose.
If your pipes freeze and burst:
- Call your agent or company as soon as you can and file
a claim. However, your insurance adjuster doesn't need to
see the spill before you take action.
- If you discover that pipes are frozen, don't wait for them
to burst. Take measures to thaw them immediately, or call a
plumber for assistance.
- If your pipes burst, first turn off the water and then mop
up spills. You don't want the water to do more damage than it
- Make a list of the damaged articles. Retain damaged items
so your adjuster can inspect them.
- Make temporary repairs and take other steps to protect your
property from further damage. Remove any carpet or furniture
in the path of flowing water or seepage.
- You may be eligible for reimbursement for temporary repairs,
so save receipts for what you spend. However, avoid expensive
permanent repairs until your adjuster has an opportunity to
evaluate the damage.
- Standard Homeowners policies include coverage for additional
living expenses if your home cannot be occupied due to water
damage from pipes broken by freezing.
To protect your home or business from frozen pipes and other
winter-related disasters, be sure to get Disaster
For more information on how protect your home's water pipes from
freezing, call NW Insurance
Council and ask for a free copy of a Maintenance
Guide for Your Home at (800) 664-4942.
NW Insurance Council is a nonprofit, public-education and public policy organization
funded by member insurance companies serving Washington, Oregon