Not sure how to prevent pipes from freezing in your home? You're not alone — about one in every 60 American homeowners will file an insurance claim for frozen pipes and related water damage this year. (That's over 3.8 million people.)
AccuWeather predicts a colder-than-average winter for much of the southern United States, including Dallas, Houston, and Memphis. Homeowners in these areas aren't used to freezing temperature issues — the Great Texas Freeze of 2021 did over $1 billion of ice and water damage to homes.
Luckily, it's simple (and pretty cheap) to prevent frozen pipes. HOMR's research team asked several plumbing contractors for DIY tips homeowners can use to safeguard their water supply this winter.
We'll cover 3 topics in this article:
The Cost to Fix a Burst Pipe: If your pipes freeze or burst, how much will it cost to fix?
5 Steps to Prevent Pipes from Freezing (And Not Pay a Plumber): Learn inexpensive, easy ways to insulate your pipes.
4 Easy Ways to Prevent Frozen Pipes While on Vacation: Don't come home to a broken pipe disaster — these 4 simple steps will protect your pipes while you're on winter vacation.
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How Much Does it Cost to Fix a Burst Pipe?
There are 4 major costs associated with frozen pipe and burst pipe damage in your home:
Cost of Pipe Repair and Replacement
Cost to Replace Drywall
Cost to Fix Structural Damage and Foundation Cracks
Overall Cost of Water Damage (and Insurance Filing)
Pipe Repair and Replacement
Simple repairs to a small section of burst pipe (1 linear foot or less) cost between $150-350.
If you’re replacing 3-5 linear feet of burst pipe, the average cost is $450-750.
The above 2 prices are only to fix the pipe itself, not any water damage associated with a leak or burst.
If your drywall is affected, it may not be covered by insurance (check with your provider). Depending on the size of drywall repair, expect to pay between $300-800.
This cost does not include replacing any wallpaper or repainting any damaged sections of your drywall.
Structural and Foundation Damage
The worst case scenario after a frozen pipe is if water damage creates a crack in your foundation. HOMR project data indicates that the average cost to repair cracks in your home's foundation is $4,500.
Thankfully, most homeowner’s property insurance covers the cost of damage due to burst pipes — but not the cost of repairing the burst pipe itself.
Overall Cost of Burst Pipes and Water Damage
So, what's the total bill for those frozen water pipes going to run you? Homewise reports that homeowners who file water damage claims lose an average of $11,650.
5 Simple Steps to Prevent Pipes from Freezing
It's not difficult — or expensive — to safeguard your water pipes against cold weather. Here are 5 expert tips from licensed plumbers to prevent pipes from freezing in your home:
Insulate exposed pipes.
Seal air leaks.
Let a faucet drip overnight.
Keep your thermostat set to a regular temperature (55°F or above).
Disconnect and drain outdoor faucets.
Insulate Sections of Exposed Pipe
Check your basement, crawl space and attic for any sections of exposed pipe. Next, check for any uninsulated pipe or water line that runs along an outside wall. Any uncovered pipes must be insulated to prevent a pipe burst.
Most homeowners use 4 types of material to insulate pipes for the winter:
Foam pipe sleeves: Foam sleeves are the most popular method of pipe insulation. Each sleeve is a simple, pre-cut foam piece that slips neatly over a water pipe. Installation is easy, and the foam helps prevent freezing pipes.
Fiberglass wraps: Fiberglass wraps are rolls of insulation that can be wrapped around pipes. They are less expensive than foam pipe sleeves, but some homeowners find them difficult to install. Wear a mask and use gloves when working with fiberglass insulation to avoid inhaling or directly touching the fibers.
Newspapers: Who says there isn't a good use for newspapers anymore? Use newspapers to insulate your pipes against cold temperature. Wrap your pipes in several layers of newspaper, then tie the paper in place with string or heating tape.
Foam faucet covers: Buy foam faucet covers from a big box home renovation store and place them over your outdoor faucets.
Once you choose an insulation material, follow these 5 steps to insulate your pipes:
Clean any dirt or debris off the pipes — debris can freeze underneath your insulation.
Cut the insulation material to the proper size. Allow extra material to cover your valves and fittings.
Wrap the insulation material tightly around the pipes for a snug fit.
Secure the insulation material in place with string, heating tape or straps. An unsecured section of insulation can lead to a frozen area of your pipe.
Ensure your insulation isn't too thick — this can restrict proper airflow and cause overheating.
Seal Air Leaks in Your Home
Sealing air leaks helps keep the warm air in your home and prevent external cold air from reaching your pipes.
When cold air seeps into your home through air leaks, it lowers the temperature of the air around your pipes. A freezing event can cause water in your pipes to become ice, leading to a burst pipe emergency.
Identify all of the areas where air is leaking into your home. These are 5 common areas homeowners discover air leaks:
Around windows and doors
Through electrical outlets and light switches
Around pipes and vents
In the attic
In the basement or crawl space
The good news? It's incredibly simple and inexpensive to fix air leaks in your home using any of these 3 materials:
Caulk: Use caulk for small air leaks or straight lines (along door saddles, window panes and jambs).
Weather stripping: Use weather stripping to seal larger gaps and cracks. It is available in a variety of materials, such as foam, rubber, and metal.
Expanding foam: Expanding foam is best used to seal large gaps and cracks. It expands to fill the gap and then dries hard.
Let A Faucet Drip Overnight
Letting a faucet drip overnight in the winter can help to prevent your pipes from freezing. Moving water is less likely to freeze than still water — when you let a faucet drip, the steady flow of water helps prevent freezing pipes.
You don't need to waste a great deal of water. Even a small drip is enough to keep the water moving and prevent the pipes from freezing. It doesn't have to be hot water — the water temperature itself is less important than maintaining a slow, steady flow.
Let a faucet drip overnight whenever the temperature is expected to drop below freezing. This is especially important if you have any exposed pipes or pipes that are not insulated properly.
Keep Your Thermostat At a Consistent Temperature
TLDR: Keep your thermostat set to a minimum of 55°F in the winter to avoid frozen pipes.
Water freezes at 32°F, but it takes several hours for water pipes to completely freeze over. Plumbing professionals recommend a minimum thermostat setting of 55 degrees Fahrenheit to combat this issue. The setting ensures your pipes always stay above freezing temperature.
If you live in an area with very cold winters, set your thermostat to a slightly higher temperature — 60°F is a reasonable minimum.
Avoid setting your thermostat too low at night or when you are on vacation, as this could put your pipes at risk of freezing.
Disconnect and Drain Outdoor Faucets in Late Fall
It's easy to forget outside faucets as you winterize your home — add it to your fall checklist to avoid a frozen faucet leading into your home. If there is water trapped in your outdoor faucets or pipes, the expanding ice can burst the pipes, causing a flood in your home.
Follow these 4 steps when winterizing your exterior faucets and pipes:
Turn off the water supply to the outdoor faucets. This valve is usually located in your basement or crawlspace, near the foundation of your home.
Disconnect any hoses or other attachments from the outdoor faucets.
Open the outdoor faucets and let the water run until it stops.
Close the outdoor faucets.
If your outdoor faucets have a bleed cap, use it to drain the water from the pipes. To do this, simply open the bleed cap and let the water run until it stops.
Once you have disconnected and drained your outdoor faucets, cover them with insulation sleeves to help protect them from the cold.
Do These 4 Things Before You Go On Vacation to Prevent Frozen Pipes
The fastest way to ruin a winter vacation is finding a flooded house when you get home. If you're headed out of town for more than 3 days, take these 4 extra steps to combat frozen water pipes while you're away.
1. Open the cabinet doors under your sinks.
Opening cabinet and vanity doors under your sinks allows warm air to circulate around pipes. It's a good first step to prevent freezing pipes — but if you live in a colder climate, you'll need to take further precautions.
2. Use a space heater to heat the coldest areas of your home.
Set up a space heater in the coldest areas of your home — this generally means your attic and attached garage. Keep the space heater at least 3 feet away from any flammable or loose items, and plug it directly into a wall outlet (no extension cords or power strips).
3. Install heat tape or heat cables (read the instructions!).
Heat tape isn't actually “tape” — it's a flexible electrical cable that runs along your pipe and plugs into a GFCI outlet. Heat tape is often called heat cables.
Thermostat-controlled heat tape is preferable to self-regulating heat tape, as you retain some control over how warm the tape gets.
Read the instructions carefully, as different brands of heat tape are meant to be installed in different ways. Some should wrap around your pipes, while others are attached to one side. As a general rule, heat tape should not be installed with pipe insulation of any kind.
4. When in doubt, call a licensed plumber before you go.
If you have any concerns about your pipes freezing, it's always a good idea to consult with a licensed plumber. They can assess your home and recommend specific steps you can take to protect your pipes from freezing.
The cost of a burst pipe and a flooded house is thousands of dollars. The cost to prevent that disaster is a few hundred bucks' worth of materials and a few hours of your time. That's a value proposition we like.
As a 24/7 home management service, HOMR strives to eliminate risk and worry from owning a home. You didn't buy your house to stress out about it — let us manage your housework, so you can get back to loving where you live.
If you need a plumber or HVAC contractor to winterize your pipes, water heater and water supply line, we'll get you a free quote on the work.