Weatherizing should be as fundamental to a home or business as regularly checking smoke detectors. After all, both are vital to preventing major damage to your structure, belongings, and other assets. One of the most important weatherizing steps is checking and protecting a building’s water pipes. As you will read below, frozen pipes can cause severe home damage if not properly taken care of.
The Science Basics of Frozen Water
As many of us learned in our junior high science classes, when some liquids turn into a solid, they expand. Water, in fact, is the only non-metallic substance that expands when it is frozen. Water becomes less dense as it reaches 0 degrees Celsius because the molecules begin to form hexagonally-shaped crystals. The bonding of hydrogen dominates the intermolecular forces, thus making the molecules less compact. The colder ice, the denser it will be pipes for smoking.
During the cold winter months, pipes will often burst or crack because the water inside of them has frozen, expanded, and broken the pipe.
The Cost of Frozen Pipes
When a pipe cracks or breaks, extensive water damage can wreck a building and potentially bring mold damage with it. It is estimated that every year, about a quarter-million homes and businesses in the United States have at least one room damaged by a frozen pipe. Even more amazing is that statistics have also shown that homeowners have filed insurance claims due to burst pipes 5x more than fire damage claims.
Common Pipe Damage
Pipes that run outside of a home or building are most likely to freeze and burst. The flooding that ensues can cause the foundation to weaken and, if it seeps beyond the foundation, the floor joints can be damaged.
A flooded basement can result from a burst outside pipe, or a pipe leading to that area of a building. These pipes often run between the basement and the floor above it. These types of burst pipes often take a while before they are detected. For many homes, basements are not visited often, so water can have a chance to drip from broken pipes for several days before the damage is discovered. This causes items in the basement to get wet and attract mold growth. It can also cause bigger problems to the structural integrity of a building.
Pipes that run above the ceiling of a building must also be checked and weatherized. Many business owners have come in to work on a Monday to find a caved-in ceiling that is cracked and leaking water onto irreplaceable items. The flood damage from the burst pipes caused documents to become wet, electronic equipment to fry, the carpet to smell bad, furniture to warp, and a great deal of headaches and stress. These pipes often break if they go through non-insulated attic space where the temperatures can drop dramatically.
Mold Damage and Frozen Pipes
Precautions must be taken after a pipe break to ensure mold does not cause further damage to a building or affect the health of others. When a building has flood damage, the carpets or flooring will often have to be replaced. The drywall and ceilings often have to come out, and insulation will have to be reinstalled. Anything and everything salvageable will have to be completely dried out because mold can grow very easily.
When in an ideal living situation, mold will quickly multiply, take over, and be hard to clean and kill. Mold growth in a building will start to breakdown and weaken the areas on which it lives. It can eat away at water damaged documents and photos, as well as walls and carpeting.
Weatherizing is not difficult, it just takes time. Given the havoc that a frozen pipe can have on a home or business, it is very important to wrap and check pipes regularly to ensure water doesn’t cause damage this winter.