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Cold, Colder, Coldest: How to Prevent Frozen Pipes

Cold, Colder, Coldest: How to Prevent Frozen Pipes


Whatever nickname you want to give Chicago — the Windy City, the City of Broad Shoulders, etc. — none of them cover the fact that when it gets cold here, it’s cold. Record-breaking, glass-shattering, inside-of-your-nose-freezes cold. In January 2019 during the polar vortex, Chicago felt temperatures as cold as 51 degrees below zero.

What inevitably followed were frozen pipes. That — when it finally warmed up — sometimes became burst pipes. Any homeowner with a burst pipe after a deep Chicago freeze can tell you horror stories about leaving voicemails to nowhere with a number of local plumbers, never to hear back when you need help the most. The good news is Fixer can help when you have a burst pipe because we are ALWAYS here giving real time information in an emergency — but there’s plenty you can do to keep a pipe from bursting, and a few things you can do immediately once a pipe has burst.


What to Do to Prevent Frozen Pipes

When a polar vortex is coming, you can be prepared and keep your pipes nice and toasty — here’s a few tips:

  1. Make sure your water pipes are insulated — pipe insulation goes a long way toward preventing frozen pipes for any pipes exposed to elements or cold drafts. If you have exposed pipes in your basement or colder, unheated crawl space or against an exterior wall (even on the inside of the house), that’s where to focus your efforts. Grab one yourself from a local home improvement store or call and ask a Fixer to insulate your exposed pipes!

  2. If you have an exposed faucet or spigot outdoors, make sure to cover it with an insulating dome or other covering — it’s cold out there, you can’t take any chances!

  3. Leave all your faucets on a slow drip to keep the water moving and reduce the buildup of pressure in the pipes. Even if the pipes do freeze, the fact that you let the pipes drip means reduces the likelihood of a burst pipe.

  4. Leave your cabinet doors and interior doors open between rooms — you want a free flow of heat to circulate through the home and reach the pipes it can, under your kitchen and bathroom sinks and any pipes in utility closets.

  5. Keep your thermostat at a steady temperature day and night — never, ever let it fall below 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Once it gets that cold, your heating system might struggle to get back up to warmer temperatures!

  6. Lastly, make sure the seals around your exterior doors and windows are tight to keep out cold air. Fixer can help you seal your house nice and tight — just give us a call!


What to Do if a Pipe Freezes or Bursts

So you did everything right, and a pipe still froze or burst — stay calm!

  1. Call a Fixer. Immediately — we are always watching the weather and planning to have extra team members at the ready to help you fix broken pipes, but we’re still busy — and independent plumbers will be even busier. Make an appointment now online or text our Concierge team ASAP (312) 216-5999.

  2. If your pipe burst, find your house’s water main shutoff  and shut it off (you may need a wrench)– you don’t want water damage in your home, so your best bet is to turn the water off to your home fast. This is all you can do — turn the water off, and wait for us to help you!

  3. If your pipe is still frozen, keep your faucets turned “on” (even if nothing comes out). By allowing for steam and water to exit through the faucet instead of build up pressure in the pipe, you’re less likely to face a burst pipe as the frozen areas start to melt.

  4. If the pipe is frozen, apply heat near to the section of the pipe that froze. Hair dryers, heating pads, space heaters — whatever  you’ve got that can slowly warm up the air near the blockage and gradually help the area unfreeze. (Note, we said gradually – i.e. NO direct flame from blow torches or kerosene heaters. It will melt the pipe, and you don’t need your house to catch fire too.)

  5. If you’ve successfully thawed the pipe, make sure to check other faucets in your home and make sure you don’t have any other frozen pipes — you can never be too careful – and then keep that water dripping!!!


What to Do to Clean Up After a Burst Pipe

So your pipe froze, it burst, it’s fixed — but now what? You may have had to bust open some drywall to get to the pipe, or removed a section of flooring, and you’ve got a mess on your hands.

Patching drywall and flooring and repainting is a lot of work. And it’s something that plumbers just can’t or won’t do — but we can.

Whether it be protecting your pipes and sealing your home from the elements before the weather hits, or helping you troubleshoot your pipes or other cold-weather damage after the weather hits, we’re here to help.

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