What to do if your pipes freeze and burst

February 9, 2011 2:44:17 PM PST
If you have not taken the time to wrap your pipes, you may be in for a big mess if the weather gets as bad as forecast. But there are some things you can do if the worst happens. ________________________
**This story originally aired during a freeze in 2010. However the information is good if you find yourself with pipe problems

Frozen pipes can be a costly problem. We spoke with plumbers who said homeowners need some basic information just in case it happens at their homes.

Finding pipe insulation is nearly impossible, as Liz Priester found out this afternoon.

She said, "We are going to wrap them with towels and some tape and trash bags and be good to go."

While Priester still plans to get her home ready for the cold, she and everyone else should know what to do if the worst case happens. You'll know your pipes burst if you see water, and you'll likely see a lot of it.

Plumber Michael Villasana said, "It would be a burst where you would see water. That's why we say it is a visual thing, if the pipe does break."

If you see a leak, turn off the flow of water to your home. That means finding out where the water comes into the house.

"The water riser coming into the house that feeds water completely into the home," Villasana explained. "The shut off valve to shut the water off to the house -- usually that water line runs in a straight path to the meter."

If you can't find the shut off valve alongside your home, you may have to turn the water off at the water meter.

Villasana said, "The shut off is actually right there. Sometimes you have to dig for them."

Be aware the shut off valve often looks different from a regular valve.

If you do get a leak, the Texas Department of Insurance recommends homeowners only make temporary repairs. Most homeowners' insurance policies cover water leak repairs but your company may want the damage inspected by an adjuster. Polices generally cover the cost of temporary repairs, clean up and permanent repairs. It's a good idea to find out if you are covered now, before the trouble starts.

"Always find out what your insurance is going to cover," Villasana advised. "That way you do not get ahead of yourself and do a complete repair when it is not necessary or when the insurance will not cover it."

One thing to remember, your homeowners' policy might not cover you if you leave home without taking precautions. So if you are leaving town, turn off the water to your home and drain the water lines.

If you find need to thaw frozen pipes, you can use a hair dryer but don't use an open flame. You can also heat up water on the stove, then soak towels and wrap those towels around frozen pipes.