Tips from a Plumber Friend

~ contributed by Mike McClure

Texas friends…a plumber friend of mine just shared some good information about issues they are seeing with this cold/no power and tips on what to do if you’ve got frozen pipes:

“Yesterday was a bad day to be a plumber in our great city of Flower Mound. In all my years of plumbing, I’ve never seen anything like this. I talked to over 200 people throughout the day. Saw 5 homes completely flooded, multiple customers in tears because of their homes being destroyed, and nothing that could be done to help them.

Even with faucets dripping, if you don’t have heat it’s just not helping still seeing pipes freeze and bust.

Laundry rooms are the worst because no water can be run and if it can you worry about the plumbing being frozen and backing up (if you have power maybe remove your washer and put a space heater in this area, where the washer box is).

Make sure you are running hot and cold water through all your faucets 24/7 if you are able (at this point we are past just a small drip, you need a steady stream coming through).

Open your cabinets and alternate space heater location if possible.

Keep downstairs warmer than upstairs (heat rises). This helps the pipes in between floors stay warmer.

Your outside hosebib is frozen by this point no matter how much you insulated it. When it thaws out early next week watch for leaks.

Washing machines – if you have to do laundry, I would dump boiling water down the drainpipe behind the washer first. Either in the wall or under the slab, there is a fitting called a p-trap this fitting holds water all the time to prevent sewer gas from coming into the house. Most washers are located on the outside wall which causes this fitting to freeze. So when the washer drains out it will hit this fitting and water will overflow into the laundry room if frozen. A lot of these fittings will be broke when they thaw out so keep an eye out for that.

Water heaters – from what we’ve seen so far if you still have full flow of hot water through at least one fixture, your water heater should be fine. If you have no hot water at all, it’s best to turn the gas setting on the water heater to pilot mode. What we’ve seen is if no hot water can leave the water heater, it is breaking the temperature and pressure relief valve line because it will start dripping out but freeze by the time it gets to the outside drain and the pressure can’t be relieved.

Gas safety – if operating a fireplace make sure your chimney flue is open to let the gas expel out. I know this seems like a common-sense practice but people forget. I had multiple calls yesterday of carbon monoxide detectors going off. When you turn your fireplace off make sure you close the damper to keep the cold air from coming back in. If we get a lot more snow, check your roof where your furnace or water heater vents out to make sure they are not blocked by snowdrift.

I recommend you find your city water meter location which is covered in snow somewhere in the front yard and make sure it’s cleaned out to where if you have a pipe bust you’re able to turn the water off quickly.

If you leave your home to go stay somewhere else, turn the water off to the home and open all the faucets to drain the system as best you can. Just know doing this you won’t have water flowing through your pipes again until possibly Saturday with that being the first day above freezing. The truth is, as plumbers, there is nothing we can do at this point except to just wait it out. Our supply houses were closed yesterday and a few select open in Dallas today.

The biggest problems we are running into are no materials and when we try to make a repair, with the water being off, it seems to freeze up by the time we get it back on.

Just know you’re not alone, keep on doing what you can. At this point, it’s just time to wait until warmer weather.”

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