BATON ROUGE, La. — The big cold weather in south Louisiana may be coming to an end, but the work is just beginning for plumbers in the Capital Region who are already overwhelmed with calls.
Jude Barker, a licensed plumber and owner of Barker Brothers Plumbing Works, says they’ve already received dozens of calls from homeowners with frozen pipes. Barker expects that number to rise as the situation begins to deteriorate.
“Last night was colder than the night before,” Barker said. “So a lot more people woke up to shower or brush their teeth and found they had no water because their pipes were frozen, especially if they didn’t drain their pipes.”
Unfortunately, there’s nothing a plumber can do until the pipes thaw.
“We’ve probably gotten 50 calls saying, ‘We don’t have water,’ and we tell them, ‘We can’t reach you.’ “If you don’t have water and you don’t see any leaks, there’s nothing we can do,” Barker said. “We would have to thaw the pipes first, and that would take forever on 50 different houses.”
Prevention and preparation are crucial when dealing with an extreme cold
Not only are the freezing temperatures wreaking havoc on homeowners, but local plumbers told UWK they’ve also received calls from a school, a hospital and even a chemical plant.
According to Brian Young, a licensed plumber whose business focuses primarily on commercial and industrial jobs, businesses tend to fare much better in colder weather.
“Backflows are the big problem because they’re outside exposed to the elements and if they’re not properly protected, it’s going to be a problem,” said Young, owner of Young’s Plumbing Company.
Backflows must be properly insulated and wrapped or they can freeze above ground, crack or burst, leaving a business or school without water until it can be repaired, Young warned.
Prevention is key to protecting pipes in extremely cold weather, as the cost to repair broken pipes and plumbing can be hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousands of dollars.
“My biggest tip is to drain the water, because the water bill is always cheaper than the plumbing bill,” advises Barker.
Prepare and protect your pipes from the next frost:
- Insulate exposed pipes: Use pipe insulation sleeves or foam sheets to protect any pipes that run through unheated areas such as attics, crawl spaces, or exterior walls.
- Open cupboard doors: Circulate warm air around sensitive pipes under sinks and inside cabinets in kitchens and bathrooms, especially in rooms with exterior-facing walls.
- Allowing water to drip from faucets: Run hot water, less than the size of a pencil, slowly to prevent your pipes from freezing. Cold water is needed to heat water, which allows the entire system to function. Choose a faucet that is furthest away from the water heater so that it serves the entire circuit of your system.
- Run your dishwasher: Stay awake as long as possible during the freeze and run the dishwasher. A typical rinse lasts about two hours and keeps the water moving before you go to sleep.
- Seal air leaks on windows and doors: Drafts can cause cold effects to enter your pipes. Therefore, insulate areas where cold air can enter.
- Drain and disconnect external hoses: Disconnect the hoses from the nozzles and drain them to prevent ice from accumulating in the faucet.
- Know Your Main Water Shutoff Valve: Locate it and make sure it is easily accessible in case you need to turn off the water quickly.
Additional winter weather tips:
- Set your thermostat above freezing: Even when you’re away, maintaining a minimum temperature in your home can help prevent pipes from freezing.
- Keep interior doors open: Circulate warm air throughout the home to reach vulnerable areas such as bathrooms and laundry rooms, especially those without vents.
- Heating crawlspaces and attics: Use space heaters or heat lamps, but keep them away from flammable materials.
- Wrap exposed pipes: For added protection, make sure exposed pipes are properly insulated with foam sheet, heat tape, or heating cable, especially for pipes that are prone to freezing.
If you suspect your pipe is frozen, licensed plumbers recommend the following:
- Immediately shut off the water supply at the main valve.
- Apply heat to the frozen area: use a hair dryer, heat gun, warm towels, or hot water bottles. Never use heaters with open flames!
- Once the water has thawed, slowly turn the water back on and check for leaks.
If you plan to be away from home during a freeze, Barker recommends homeowners avoid draining water and instead shut off the water from the main water supply or water meter, then drain all faucets to ensure all water flows out, and That too I won’t freeze in your pipes while you’re away.
What to do if your pipes burst?
How do you clean up after your pipes freeze or burst in your home or business? Depending on the extent of the damage, you may need to seek help from other professionals.
A restoration company can help you assess the damage and clean up the water, dry your walls and make sure mold doesn’t form, says Lori Garlington of Monroe-based Klean King Air Duct and Restoration.
“Many people with vinyl plank floors need a dehumidifier to remove excess water from under the floors and dry out sheetrock,” Garlington said. “This is where a specialist comes in who will test your walls and take measurements to determine how wet they are.”
Home renovation companies can help with water damage to floors and carpets, as well as mold removal and remediation.
With more cold weather expected in the Baton Rouge area this weekend, experts say we’re lucky this latest cold snap wasn’t as bad as previous years. said UWC It’s always better to err on the side of caution and hope that people are better prepared for future freezes.
“We have 18 professionals ready to go and those guys would rather be at home protecting their property as well,” Barker said.
“We don’t look at this as an opportunity to make money. We’re keeping our fingers crossed, hopefully nothing is too bad because we already have enough to deal with.”
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