Friday, April 30, 2010

After the Thaw - Burst Pipes (Part 2 of 4)

This posting is part 2 in a series about the damage that  may have been done to our homes over the winter.  Typically the cause of a lot of the damage can be attributed to the freeze/thaw cycle.  The freeze/thaw cycle occurs when the outside temperature falls below freezing and then returns to above freezing at frequent intervals, which happens often during the spring in Colorado.

Some of the damages you may encounter are: damaged hose bibs, burst water pipes, damage to your roof and cracking or spalling of exterior concrete.  This is the first in a series of 4 posts which will address each of these issues.  Each post will discuss some of the common causes, simple repair methods and ways to prevent similar damage next year.
  
Typical causes of a burst pipe.
  • Piping installed too close to exterior walls without insulation
  • Piping installed above frost line
  • Piping installed in un-conditioned area of home (crawlspace, garage) without insulation.
Repairing a burst pipe:
Things to think about before you start!
  • Never start a project late in the day or when hardware stores aren’t open!
  • After shutting off your water remember to drain your system or you will get VERY wet.
  • When cutting copper tubing be sure the cut is straight, clean, burr free and dry.
  • Don’t try soldering unless you’ve practiced in advance.
  • Test all new connections thoroughly before calling the repair a success.
Turn off water at the main shut off valve
 
If you don’t know where your main shut off valve do the following:
  • Go to the lowest level of your home, which may be a crawlspace or basement.
  • Go to the wall nearest the street side of the your home.
  • Look for a valve that looks like one of the valves shown to the right.
  • If you can’t find it there start at your water heater and identify the cold water pipe by looking for the pipe with the shut off valve.  Trace that pipe until you find the main shut off valve typically near a foundation wall.
  • If you can’t find it, call a plumber.  It is important that you know the location of this valve.
Replace damaged piping
 
This is something you can do yourself if you give yourself enough time and have the right tools.  This is not something I recommend you do yourself if being without water to your home for an extended period of time is not an option.  This is one of those times when paying a professional just makes sense.
 
DIY Option:
 
Use "shark bite fittings".  These fittings are wonderful and easy to use.  There are numerous types including reducers, elbows and even shut off valves.  I have used these with great success.
  • Cut out the damaged sections of piping
  • Clean the areas where the piping was cut.
  • Install a new section of piping
  • Test thoroughly for leaks

How to prevent it next year:
  • Install foam insulation on all exposed water pipes.
  • Install heat cable on pipes
  • Fill all areas around piping that exits through your walls to the exterior with expandable foam. 
 








 

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