Cold Temperatures and Frozen Pipes:
The Whys and Hows of This Frigid Problem

Why: As temperatures drop, the composition of water changes—shifting the physical property from a flowing liquid to a sedentary solid. This results in a considerable amount of pressure being applied to the pipes. Regardless of the material (i.e. plastic, metal, etc), the strength of the pipes become compromised and will burst.

Pipes at risk for freezing:

  • Pipes directly exposed to severe cold: water sprinkler lines, swimming pool supply lines, and outdoor hose bibs
  • Exterior pipes that run against uninsulated walls
  • Water supply pipes in unheated interior spaces: cabinets, basements, garages, attics, and crawl spaces

How to Protect Against Frozen Pipes

  • Place insulation in unheated areas, as mentioned above.
  • Install specific water pipe insulants, such as “pipe sleeves”, “heat tape” or “heat cable to exposed pipes. ¼” of newspaper can act as insulant as well.
  • Drain water from swimming poop and sprinkler lines per the manufacturer’s directions
  • Close inside valves supplying outdoor hose bibs. Open the outside hose bibs to allow water to drain. Keep the outside valve open so that any water remaining in the pipe can expand without causing the pipe to break.
  • In some cases, moving exposed pipes to more insulated or heated areas is recommended

*Please note, placing anti-freeze in pipes is dangerous and not recommended as it can be harmful to humans, pets, and the environment*

How to Prevent Frozen Pipes

  • If you are planning on vacating the premises during a spell of cold weather, set the heat NO LOWER than 55-degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Maintain a consistent temperature throughout the day and night. Suspending the heat overnight can cause rapid freezing.
  • Keep garage and exterior doors shut if there is a water supply line present
  • Open bathroom and kitchen cabinets to allow heated air to circulate around the plumbing
    • Relocate dangerous chemicals and medications if needed
  • Let water trickle from faucets served by exterior or compromised pipes

How to Thaw Frozen Pipes

  • Keep the faucet open –even the smallest trickle of water running through will help melt the pipe
  • Locate the frozen section of pipe (typically against exterior walls or where your water service enters your home through the foundation) and attempt to thaw by applying heat via a hairdryer, heating pad, space heater or soaked and warmed towels.
    • Do not use blow torchers, kerosene/propane heaters, charcoal stoves, or other open flame devices.
  • Maintain treating with heat until normal water pressure is fully restored. If you are unable to find the frozen section, it is inaccessible, or you cannot restore the water flow to normal pressure, call a licensed plumber immediately.

Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Burst Pipes (Per Travelers)

“Accidental water damage that occurs as a result of a sudden, unexpected occurrence like a burst pipe, is often covered by a homeowners insurance policy. In addition, cleaning, repair or replacement of wood flooring, drywall and even furniture due to water damage as a result of a burst pipe typically are covered.”

Coverages Needed for Broken Pipes

Dwelling: “…helps pay to rebuild or repair the physical structure of your home in the event of accidental water damage, fire, severe weather, vandalism or another covered cause of loss.”

Property: “Helps cover your belongings, such as furniture, clothing, sporting goods or electronics, in the event of a covered loss – whether they get damaged at your home, apartment or anywhere in the world. In the case of accidental water damage from a burst pipe, this means payment for professional cleaning or replacement of furniture and personal belongings, as long as accidental water damage is a covered cause of loss in your policy.”

Loss of Use: “…helps pay for the additional costs you incur for reasonable housing and living expenses if a covered event makes your house temporarily uninhabitable while it’s being repaired or rebuilt. So, if a burst pipe has caused covered damage to your home making it unlivable, this coverage could offset things like hotel expenses and boarding for your pet while your home is repaired or rebuilt.


Information adapted and/or quoted from:


Policies and claims should be discussed on an individual basis with your agent. Coverage, prices, and needs vary depending on carrier and state. Please call our office at 814-308-5250 for more information.