What causes water pipes to burst in the winter months?

What causes water pipes to burst in the winter months?

When temperatures drop below freezing during winter months, exposed pipes become at risk of bursting – resulting in extensive water damage and costly repairs. Contributing factors that cause burst pipes in winter months are water molecule expansion due to freezing temperatures and pressure build up.

Water Molecule Expansion

Water is a very unique and interesting liquid. When water is in its liquid form, its molecules are in constant motion allowing very little space in between them. In other words, the molecules are huddled together. As temperatures drop below freezing, these molecules begin to change drastically. The molecule bonds become stronger, therefore restricting movement and creating a more defined structure. No longer are the molecules in constant motion, but instead they develop into crystalline structures and align in a hexagon shape formation. When positioning into their new hexagon formation, the molecules require more space in between them. What does this mean for your pipes? Increased pressure.

Pressure Build Up

As the water within your pipes slowly freezes, the pressure will begin to increase. Water will continue to expand into all available areas within the pipe, and when there is no more space… it will gravitate towards the faucet. Eventually, the water will have no other place to go and the pipe will be at full capacity. If the pressure is allowed to build and build, the pipes will no longer be able to contain the expanded frozen water within it. At this point the pipe will break, crack and burst.

What you can do to Prevent Burst Pipes

  • Allow faucets to drip. Letting your faucet drip promotes water movement. Moving water is less likely to freeze, even if it’s a trickle, it can help prevent your pipes from bursting.
  • Insulate pipes. Insulating your pipes adds an extra layer of protection from freezing temperatures. There are several materials you can use to insulate your pipes, such as foam and heat tape. You can usually find these materials at your local home improvement store.
  • Open sink cabinets. Opening sink cabinets in your kitchen and bathrooms allows warm indoor air to surround pipes. The warm air around the pipes can prevent the water from freezing.
  • Maintain pipes. You should routinely inspect your water pipes for any signs of damage, especially before the colder months. Damaged pipes should be repaired or replaced immediately. Pipes that are compromised with cracks are more likely to burst at the slightest instance of water expanding.

What to do if your Pipes Burst

If safe (and possible), you should turn off the water at the main shut-off valve and call a plumber. It then becomes a race against the clock. The success of recovering and restoring your home, and its contents, increases if rapid action is taken. Affected building materials and other items will continue to deteriorate if excess water is not removed. Our experts are specialized in water damage restoration and can provide a rapid response to mitigate your loss, no matter the extent of the damage. Contact us today at 877-730-1948.