Reducing the Risk of Water Damage

Proper maintenance during winter weather can reduce the risk of damage due to water intrusion.

If you are located in a region that is prone to freezing temperatures, taking steps to prevent frozen pipes and other leaks can reduce the risk of property damage. This is particularly important for properties in the southeast and parts of northern California that may not be designed to perform as well in freezing temperatures.

Use the following guidance to prepare for and respond to freezing weather:

Protect your pipes from freezing

  • Insulate all accessible pipes using pipe insulation (this can be found at your local hardware store).

  • Keep all exterior entry, exit and garage doors to unheated spaces closed as much as possible during the winter months.

  • Prior to the winter months, ensure that all cracks, holes, and other openings on the exterior walls are sealed tightly with caulk or insulation to prevent cold air from penetrating the wall cavity.

  • If the temperature drops lower than usual and any pipes are located adjacent to exterior walls or within base-cabinets or in closets, leave the cabinet/closet doors open or use a fan to increase warm air circulation around the pipes.

  • In areas of severe cold weather, pay close attention to local weather reports for notice of extreme weather.

  • When extreme cold weather is predicted, let all faucets drip to prevent freezing of the water inside the pipe and if freezing does occur, to relieve pressure buildup in the pipes between the ice blockage and the faucet.

  • The pressure buildup is the actual cause of bursting pipes.

    Install a water leak detection system, available at your plumbing supply store, which will alert someone in your household if water is detected.

  • Shut off the water supply during periods when the home may be unoccupied, particularly when colder weather is expected.

  • Be sure to drain your water supply system before leaving the home unoccupied.

Check for frozen pipes

  • Turn on each water supply faucet individually (both hot and cold) to ensure that there is a steady stream of water present.

  • If the flow of water is slowed, or worse, there is no flow, then it is likely that your pipe has frozen.

  • Identify the blockage (probably the area of most exposure) and use a blow dryer (do NOT use an open flame torch!) to heat the supply line, while leaving the faucet open.

  • Continue heating the pipe until there is a steady flow of water.

Frozen-Pipes-Infographic_IBHS

Remove snow from window wells and against walls

  • Remove snow from window wells and against walls.

  • Snow buildup around windows and against walls also can lead to water damage.

  • To maintain proper drainage and reduce the risk of leaks in basements, remove snow from window wells and against all walls.

Clear debris from drains and gutters

  • Clear debris from drains and gutters.

  • Clear debris from basement drains.

  • Make sure gutters are clean and stable to ensure proper drainage.