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Beware of the thaw: How to prevent busted pipes

Posted at 7:29 PM, Feb 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-18 08:45:47-05

TULSA, Okla. — Now that the snow stopped falling, many are starting to worry about water pipes thawing.

Many will probably bust and need the help of a professional. But if you act quickly, there are some steps you can take now before it's too late.

If you love the winter, it's undoubtedly pretty outside, not so much though inside.

Panicked Jayme Perkins frantically searched for every towel she could find. Soon, soaked, sopping, and saturated towels were scattered all over the laundry room floor.

"It never occurred to me that I shouldn't be doing laundry on a negative 10 degree day here in Tulsa," Perkins said.

The washer was on an exterior wall, a north-facing wall at that. It didn't take long for problems with those mostly hidden pipes in the wall to come out of hiding, bursting into full view after hibernating during our days-long record-setting cold spell.

"Thankfully, I was right here in the kitchen and immediately turned the washer off," Perkins said.

Experts said you could head off those types of problems.

"This could save you a lot of money down the road on repair and damage," said Brad Bennett with Airco Service Company.

One by one, test all the faucets in your home. If only a trickle comes out, you probably have a frozen pipe. If it hasn't busted, heat the pipe leading to the faucet. First, leave the faucet turned on. As you thaw the pipe, you want water to be able to flow through the faucet.

Consumer Reports said you could use a hair dryer, a heating pad, or a small space heater to heat the pipe. Just remember to keep it away from flammables and never leave it unattended.

You can also wrap the pipes in towels soaked in hot water, but never use an open flame. Apply heat until you restore full pressure to the faucet.

As for Perkins, she's hoping for a slow thaw before her next load of laundry.

"So, now we have space heaters blowing onto the pipes behind the washer warming them up," she said.

But most importantly, if you hear water running where you usually don't listen to it or see your pipes have busted, then act quickly. Turn off the main water valve in your home and call a licensed plumber as soon as possible.

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