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When you see icicles coming from underneath your neighbor’s siding and there wasn’t a storm recently, that’s cause for concern! When I see icicles on the outside of the house and frosted windows from moisture, I know there is a serious problem inside. IRS received a call for just such a situation which turned out to be frozen pipes that had burst and caused water damage throughout the house. The homeowner had gone on vacation and while they were gone a cold snap hit the area. The kitchen sink was along an exterior wall and it was vulnerable to sub-zero wind chill.

frozen pipes

The Damage from Frozen Pipes

The frozen pipe was in the kitchen on the main floor of the house. Direct water damage was caused throughout most of the first floor and dripped downward into the basement ceiling onto the basement floor causing extensive damage there as well.

frozen pipe damaged floor

frozen pipes flooded basement

In a case like this, where no one is around to immediately address the situation, you can also have secondary damage throughout the house due to moisture content. The constant flow of water increases the overall moisture in the house and when that moisture comes into contact with exterior walls, doors, and windows it freezes and can cause damage to drywall and joints. Prolonged water damage can also lead to mold growth.

frozen pipes frozen window

Cleanup Procedures

First, plumbers stopped the flow of water by turning off the main valve. The burst pipe was fixed and an inspection was performed on all other pipes in the area to ensure they were not also frozen prior to turning the water back on. At the same time, we deployed multiple fans and dehumidifiers in impacted areas to reduce the moisture content. These fans and dehumidifiers were able to pull enough moisture out of the hard wood floor that it was able to be saved with minor restoration rather than completely replaced.

frozen pipes dehumidifiers and fans

Unfortunately the same couldn’t be said about the basement. It isn’t known how long the water was flowing but it was long enough for mold growth to begin throughout the basement. In addition to drying the basement with dehumidifiers and fans, IRS technicians immediately began mold remediation by removing impacted soft contents such as carpet, sheet rock and ceiling tiles. Any non-removable objects such as concrete supports were treated for mold. Subsequent to the remediation, restoration work was performed to restore the basement to its original condition.

How to Prevent Frozen Pipes

There are a few things maintenance staff, business owners and homeowners can do to prevent frozen pipes and they are much cheaper and easier than dealing with the aftermath of a burst pipe. The first is to keep an eye on the forecast. Don’t just look at the standard temperature, be sure to also note the wind chill. If a cold snap is coming here are some things you can do to prevent frozen pipes:

  • Keep the heat on
    Don’t lower the heat if you’re going away when there is the potential for a cold snap. Keeping the heat up will raise the overall temperature in the building and warm the pipes.
  • Allow the faucet to drip
    You can open the faucet just enough to let it drip. This will keep a flow going through the pipe preventing it from freezing.
  • Maintain airflow to areas with pipes
    Increasing airflow by opening doors inside the house and on cabinets where pipes are usually located can help warm air reach these pipes and keep them warm.
  • Seal up holes
    Check both the inside and outside of walls that pipes run through and seal any holes or cracks allowing cold air in.
  • Add insulation
    Insulation can be added to walls or in some case directly to pipes themselves to keep the cold out.

Insurance Restoration Specialists, Inc. (IRS) is a premier provider of disaster recovery mitigation, environmental remediation, biohazard emergency response and HVAC inspection and cleaning in the New Jersey-Philadelphia-New York City area. IRS is certified by NADCA and have Certified Air Systems Cleaning Technicians and a Certified Ventilation System Inspector on staff. Services include mold removal, water damage restoration, fire damage restoration, flood damage cleanup, smoke damage remediation, and biohazard remediation. Insurance Restoration Specialists is led by Certified Industrial Hygienist Thomas Peter.