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Tips for the proactive homeowner

Homeowners urged to keep an eye on pipes this winter

Nov. 1, 2017

Old man winter is upon us and the season could wreak havoc on homes. In many parts of the country, winter temperatures are plunging deeper, putting pipes inside and outside of houses at risk. Pipes subject to extreme cold temperatures can freeze and eventually burst, and that catastrophe could be devastating enough to burst your budget.

“We receive hundreds of claims on this every winter,” said Tom Tracey, Director of Property and Material Claims at COUNTRY Financial. “We expect the number to increase as homeowners begin to inspect their homes following winter storms and cold fronts.”

Early indicators

According to Eric Vanasdale, senior loss control representative at COUNTRY Financial, homeowners can tell a pipe is likely frozen if a faucet is turned on and only a trickle of water comes out. Another indicator is a newly discovered leaky pipe that was formerly functioning fine.

“If a pipe begins to leak or bursts, homeowners should act quickly. They can locate the main water source and turn off the valve to prevent further damage,” said Vanasdale. “They should then call a plumber for help.”

Keep in mind outside temperatures don’t have to hit below zero to cause harm. Once it reaches 20 degrees, outside pipes can become susceptible to freezing. It can happen anywhere pipes are exposed to cold air including crawl spaces and basements.

Homeowners in southern states need to be even more cautious as pipes are more likely to be located outside homes where there is little to no insulation to guard them from the elements.

Five tips for protecting pipes

1.     Keep the water dripping. In extreme conditions and scenarios, homeowners should let their taps slowly drip water to prevent freezing. Doing so can also relieve pressure in the event that some water within the pipes does freeze.

2.     Open cabinet doors. Opening cabinet doors under kitchen and bathroom sinks can allow warmer air into the spaces to encircle pipes.

3.     Heading out for the weekend? Traveling homeowners may consider shutting off their water supply and draining the system if they’ll be away for an extended period of time.

4.     Insulate pipes. Pipes exposed to the elements are much more likely to freeze, and that includes pipes located in un-insulated attics, basements, crawl spaces and outside the home. Homeowners can winterize them with a sleeve of Styrofoam or heat tape. Underground sprinklers and spigots can also be encased in fiberglass insulation sleeves or shut off at the valve and drained. Garden hoses should be disconnected and insulated covers should be placed over nozzles.

5.     Seal cracks and holes in outside walls near water pipes. Holes in outside walls, including where cable and phone lines enter a home can give cold air access to pipes. Homeowners should use a sealant or caulk approved for exterior use to plug up holes to prevent cold air from entering.

The risk of pipes freezing is real. Fortunately for the handy homeowner, a little planning and resourcefulness can go a long way toward keeping their pipes free and clear.

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About COUNTRY Financial

COUNTRY Financial is a marketing name for COUNTRY Life Insurance Company®, COUNTRY Mutual Insurance Company® and their respective subsidiaries, located in Bloomington, IL. COUNTRY Financial serves about one million households and businesses throughout the United States and offers a wide range of insurance and financial products and services.