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Avoiding Frozen Pipes

This year, Cold Winter Weather blew in from the Arctic, promising another cold Winter for the Midwest – upper, lower, and parts in between!

As we mentioned in a similar post a year or so ago, Water Damage from frozen pipes is a frequent source of winter claims for properties in colder climates.  Unfortunately, that was over ½ of the country this past week and weekend. 

It’s Winter, and it will freeze again (hopefully not in such a way as last year’s Arctic Blast)

We can guarantee you that most of frozen pipe bursts are easily preventable.  We can narrow these claims down to mostly Tenant Occupied homes, with tenants simply being unaware of what to do.  People living in Toledo and Green Bay may know what to do, but the people in the lower states and the South really don’t – and why should they?  They live in moderate climates more inclined to mimic a sweat shop than a freezer locker!  

Why don’t they know?  They are not informed.  Sure:  In most cases, property managers give tenants a piece paper, in the rental agreement, telling them what to do when, perhaps, there may be some extreme cold or freezing temperatures.  But, do you really think that tenants in Tennessee or Arkansas or Missouri will remember what to do when the Arctic blasts hit?  Will they look for that paper or know where to look for it in the lease agreement?  They will be lucky to find the rental agreement, which is likely buried with other papers in the downstairs closet, if it is even still around.

7 Steps You Can Take Right Now to Avoid a Pipe Freeze

Here are 7 steps to help you prevent a pipe freeze and the resulting damages:

  1. Keep your thermostat to at least 60 degrees throughout the house during extended sub-freezing temperatures
  2. Leave bathroom or kitchen cabinet doors that run along outside wall open so that warmer air can circulate through them (be mindful of pets and small children if chemicals where chemicals are stored).
  3. Exterior faucets for hoses and irrigation should be shut off from inside the home.
  4. Still water freezes faster than running water.  During periods of low usage and on frigid nights, turn on a faucet at the highest point in the home.  Keep the stream low, so that only a small amount can trickle through any sections of pipes running through cold spaces.
  5. If you are going to be away from home for an extended period, arrange for someone to check the house daily.  Make sure the location of the main water shut-off valve is well known.
  6. If you have tenants, make sure they know what to do!  This information is worthless unless you tell them what to do, either directly or through your property managers.  The weather is predicted, as respects cold and warm snaps.  Make sure you or your tenants know what to do.
  7. Have Tenants?  Remind them of what they should do!  It’s guaranteed the vast majority of people who are not used to freezing temperatures will not remember what to do.  It’s your or your manager’s job to remind them.    

If You Have a Frozen Pipe, call your plumber immediately.

Once a pipe thaws, there is a chance it could burst.

Permanent Steps You Can Take to Minimize Burst Pipes During a Freeze

  • Install an automatic shut-off system designed to stop leaking water when water accumulation is detected.  Your plumber can help you with this.
  • Add several ‘low-temperature sensors’ to your central station alarm system, especially in remote areas of your home.  While this is more of an owner occupied home technique, encourage your tenants to get alarms.  That will reduce the possibilities that your property will get trashed when the tenants are away.  

If You Have Water Damage

  • Call an emergency service restoration company asap.  They facilitate initial clean up and start the dry-out process with the right equipment.  If you are unsure as to which company to call, usually national companies like ServPro will be accepted by your insurance companies (if you have 24/7 claims assistance, as with our Safeco program, the Safeco Claims representatives can give you the property phone numbers to call to mitigate the damage).  
  • Move undamaged items away from the affected area.
  • Call your Homeowner or Landlord insurer immediately and, if possible, directly.  You can find the insurance company’s customer service and claims numbers on your policies, on our website (under Claims), or on-line.  Safeco’s claims number is 877-857-9505.  ASI’s claims number is 866-487-2643!  Keep these numbers handy.  

Landlords & Homeowners:  Please keep this note posted somewhere you can see it and remember what to do.  And, again, for Landlords, the key is with the tenants, as they are living in in a house that you own and over which you have little day-to-day control.  Make sure they know what to do to prevent severe damage to your property!

Huggins/Dreckman Insurance, Insuring Your Success!


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