You might not know that water damage resulting from frozen pipes is the second leading cause of unpaid insurance claims for home damage in the United States. If you haven’t been one of the unfortunate victims of water damage from frozen pipes, consider yourself fortunate, and assess how at-risk your home is for this catastrophe. If you aren’t armed against frozen pipes, it’s not a question of if you’ll pay the price, but when.

Assessing the Risk of Frozen Pipes – Water Damage:

Answer the list of questions following to determine your risk level. If you answer yes to three or more of these scenarios, you need to fix your piping before the close of winter, or as soon as possible. Do you have:

  • a sprinkler system?
  • exterior water spigots?
  • home insulation more than ten years old?
  • more than 50% exterior walls made of brick?
  • a two or three story house?

Each of these factors increases your risk of frozen pipes, and frozen pipes increase the risk of bursting pipes. In the Pacific Northwest, winter can bring freezing temperatures that will cause your pipes to freeze. Since Seattle sits on the Puget Sound, the risk of freezing temps is pretty low and therefore many older homes were built using less insulation or non-insulated crawl spaces. Most people do not realize that underneath their house is open to the outside air. Houses built in Western Washington usually do not come with heated crawl spaces, the place where most of your pipes run through the house. This means that if temperatures where to fall below 25 degrees for an extended period of time, your pipes can begin to freeze.

What’s To Lose:

You might think there’s nothing major to risk with a little frozen pipe, and you’d be wrong. One burst pipe may go unnoticed for hours, days, or even weeks. Over the duration of it’s disrepair, leakage will continuously seep into the home. Everything in the water’s path will be damaged. House framing will absorb water, drywall, insulation, cement foundation and more will all swell with water. The damages will range from wood rot and invasive mold to foundation cracking and exterior wall crumbling.

If you’re among the very small percentage of lucky homeowners, you may catch a burst pipe quickly and pay as little as two thousand dollars to repair the pipe and the damage to the localized area. If you’re among the large percentage of homeowners who don’t catch the burst pipe for weeks or more (which is extremely likely since most burst pipes don’t make a sound and instead leak from a hairline fracture in the metal) you may be looking at repair costs upwards of $50,000. It doesn’t take a great deal of imagination to see how an uninsured, $50,000 bill will set you back. Water damage is a serious threat to your home!

The Alternative:

Hire a piping professional to assess you home for danger areas. Solutions will range from foam insulation installed directly to your water pipes to minor patch-work on your house exterior.  You might need new insulation, which could be factored into a second mortgage, or home refinancing, or you may need updated piping.

An easy assessment of the situation is the best way to avoid the far more expensive costs of allowing your home’s pipes to burst. You hate winter like most people. What good comes of the cold, but a white Christmas? Still, winter is a reality for most Americans and if you want to weather the season with the least damage possible, have a professional check your home for signs of vulnerability to water damage from burst pipes.