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What To Do In MN When Plumbing And Heating Pipes Are Frozen and Broken?

As I write this we are beginning the recovery of another frozen house.  This is what we call a house that has lost heat and has frozen and broken water pipes and hot water heat lines.  This has been a record year for calls regarding homes that have lost heat which has resulted in frozen pipes breaking and causing damage in the home.

The most recent call we received was from a Minneapolis homeowner who was out of town and had a hot water pipe freeze and break which resulted in water shooting over to the boiler and causing the  pilot lite to go out.  With no heat the house proceeded to get colder to the point of freezing the plumbing and heating pipes.  This resulted in broken baseboard heat along with broken piping for both the heating lines and plumbing lines.

The actions taken by another plumbing contractor before we were called has prompted me to write about what to do and more importantly, what not to do.  The actions you take at this point could dramatically affect the cost and length of the rehabilitation.

  • Remove Radiators and Toilets – If they are cracked, you will want to remove them before they have a chance to thaw.  Radiators will leak a black sludge and cracked toilets will cause a lot of water damage.
  • Shut Water Off – This should be done right away.  Pipes that are frozen and broken will start leaking and shooting water if they start to thaw and they are under pressure.  You will not know if there are any breaks until water is in the pipes or they are pressurized with air.  You may need the city to shut the water off at the street if your water shut off at the water meter is frozen.
  • Remove Valuables - This includes electronics, papers, pictures etc.  They may not be damaged yet but will be exposed to dampness and water during the thaw and rehab process.
  • Call Your Insurance Company – They will need to be notified as soon as possible.  Most house freeze ups result in thousands to tens of thousand of dollars in damage.
  • Call Your Plumber – Insurance companies will let you choose who you want to use as your contractor.  They usually ask you who you are using for the repair.  Make sure you contact a licensed plumbing contractor who has experience in working with frozen houses.  Not every plumber has the necessary experience to know what to do first.

DO NOT TURN ON THE HEAT!!!

The house we are doing now and a number of Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Minnesota area homes we have done in the past were started by a plumbing contractor who thought the first thing to do is warm up the house so they could work on it.  This is the worst thing you can do. The damage will increase greatly by doing this. Experienced plumbers know that it will be cold and uncomfortable for a day or two while radiators and toilets are hauled out and water is turned off.

No more damage will be done to your house once it is frozen solid.  While it tempting to get warm, don’t do it.

Minneapolis Saint Paul Plumbing Heating Air has been helping homeowners with frozen homes for almost 100 years.  Nobody has more experience then us.  Call us or contact us online if you have any questions.

Categories: Plumbing | Heating