Thursday, January 24, 2008

Frozen Pipes

It's another cold day. My faith in winter has been restored. It's refreshing to have a real winter where there is snow and cold. I was beginning to worry my kids would grow up knowing winter as something old folks tell stories about.

Yesterday one of my agents got a call that water was gushing from a foreclosed house. As I tried hard to ignore the conversation that was none of my business... yet, I wondered how he could have overlooked something as important as winterizing an empty house.

I showed a house once where the water was knee deep in the basement from a broken pipe. Another house as the story goes had comnpletely filled with water to the point that when the agent opened the front door to do the walk through before closing, water came gushing out the front door and ran into the street. That closing didn't happen.

I became familiar with that property upon selling it after the renovation.

If you have a vacant house, regardless of the season, shut the water off. If you don't fully winterise the house, at least open the highest faucet and the lowest faucet to let most of the water run out of the pipes. Its cheap and easy to pour some RV antifeeze into the toilets.

This won't save you if the heat goes out and you don't discover it for a while. Companies that winterize homes have a check list and sometimes even they screw up. If you have a pipe burst with lots of water, you will probably have to tear out any wet area down to the studs.

Through the years I have owned several older rental properties. It's in a cold snap like this that you learn things. Like the house with the crawl space and the access cover removed. It's summer when you replace it. It might not occur to you that all of the pipes will freeze when the temperature drops.

Once I stuffed insulation around a pipe in a bathroom to keep cold air from coming into the vanity not appreciating I was causing the pipe in the wall to freeze.

Don't ever use a torch or paint burner to thaw frozen pipes. Presented with a frozen pipe and having a plumbing torch you might be tempted. The wood in an old house is very dry and can light up quicker than you imagine. Hair dryers work or even better just a fan directed to the area of freeze up will do the trick.

I should say the frozen foreclosure with the gushing water turned out not to be ours. Maybe a bank lost track of one.

No comments: