We wake up in the sunshine to get the weekend off to a real start as much of our state is finally getting out of the freezer – but many of us still have concerns.
HOUSTON – When the sun rises over Texas and we come out of another severe frost overnight, many of us will cautiously – with fear – look over the walls and floors of our home for water where it shouldn’t be.
That’s because we’ve all seen the reports of thousands of water pipe ruptures in homes and businesses after the Arctic explosion of 2021 struck the state earlier this week.
ALSO READ: Some see utility bills of up to $ 17,000 after the Texas winter storm
Wintry weather dropped southeast Texas to near historic lows, leaving snow and ice that stayed nationwide for days. It also turned off electricity for millions of people, which made homes colder than usual and allowed more pipes to freeze.
How do you know if you have a problem with your pipes after freezing?
In wintry weather, the pipes break because the water in the pipe freezes and expands, similar to what happens when you put a bottle of water or a can of soda in the freezer and watch it expand outward.
Often the pipes cannot withstand the load and break. This can be done inside the walls of your home, in the attic, under your house, or on the pipes outside of your home.
Look out for these worrying signs during and after a winter event:
- Frost or icicles on the outside of a pipe – especially if it wasn’t insulated.
- Obviously, whenever water shows up somewhere it shouldn’t be: on the floor, near lights, etc. Water tends to “move” around your walls and attic because of the leak Seems to be right above you may not be the actual location of a burst pipe.
- Stains on the walls or ceiling. Look very carefully, possibly with a bright flash, for any discoloration of the normal color. The start of a leak doesn’t always show up as a falling rock – try to catch it at a very early stage in the discoloration if it gets wet.
- Sagging sheet metal – you know that dry stone walls need replacing most of the time when they get wet, especially if they are soaked and sagging or can be easily punctured with your finger or a tool. Of course, fix the leak first. Just repairing the leak without removing damaged drywall or moisture can lead to mold problems later.
- Low water pressure or no water pressure – this can affect all of your faucets or just one or two in a given wall that is frozen. This, of course, is more difficult to tell if your city’s overall water supply is compromised or suffering from low water pressure.
- Wet or muddy garden when it hasn’t rained – or water flowing from your property onto the street.
- Expensive water bills – Unless you changed your habits or added extra people, a sudden spike in your monthly bill can be an indicator that you have a leak somewhere. It could even come from a faucet or pipe outside or under your house where it might be less obvious. On a dry day, go around the property again and look for signs such as stagnant water or mud.
- Delaware Plumbing says that sometimes, but less often, discolored or smelly water can also be an indicator that a pipe has broken somewhere.
- Turn off the electricity in all areas affected by the water from the broken pipe – your entire house if you need to, when the situation is being assessed
- Shut off water in the affected area – sometimes you can just shut off and isolate the damaged area, but more often you’ll need to use the valve that brings the city / county water into your home. In the worst case scenario, this valley can also be broken and you have to turn it off on the meter. You can call the city for help if needed.
- Take photos or videos for insurance purposes
- Immediately start removing as much stagnant water, moisture (keep a fan running nearby if it is safe to use electricity), and damaged sheet metal as possible. During a natural disaster, waiting for a professional to come and help you can cause further damage and mold due to waiting times.
- Contact a plumber
- Contact your insurance company
- Hire a contractor to do other repairs (wall, ceiling) after the plumber is done
Your best option before freezing: plug your pipes
With freezing temperatures predicted, especially temperatures below 30, there are ways to protect your home’s pipes and water system beyond a drop or opening cabinets.
“… before you go to sleep, go out and turn off the main switch-off, turn on a few taps so that your pipes can drain. They can’t burst if they don’t have water to freeze, “said Carol Haddock, public works director for the city of Houston.
Master Plumber Even Villasana says he does – “I wouldn’t take any chances.”
“I’m going to drain the system in my house,” he said.
The best option is to shut the valve of the city on your curb. It’s usually in a covered box. Simply turn the handle so that it is perpendicular to the pipe. If you can’t reach this, the valve on the side of your house will work too. But before you do that, Villasana says you should do something first.
“What people should do is while they have their water on, when you have accessible water. Fill your bathtubs when you have buckets of water to flush toilets, “he said.
“It is better to be without water for 10 to 12 hours than for 10 to 12 days. Let’s say a pipe bursts and you’re waiting for insurance and adjusters and all that, “Villasana said.
You can turn the water back on as soon as temperatures are above freezing. However, open the taps and do this slowly. Plumbers recommend using a clock and turning on a little more water every minute for five minutes – and make sure there’s someone inside to watch for leaks.
Busted Pipes employ plumbers and hardware stores in Texas
The Home Depot on Gulf Freeway and Beltway 8 in southeast Houston was pretty full Thursday morning. People were there for one thing: plumbing.
The manager said they were also busy with people looking for materials to fix their walls and lights that might have been damaged by the water from broken pipes. Read more here.