Homeowners, Inspectors, Real Estate Professionals, Friends & Family:
I need to alert you to take immediate action if you are living in Northern Utah. I came into the kitchen of our Orem, Utah home about an hour ago and the water was off at the kitchen sink. Did I pay my bill? I checked the meter and it was on. I then went to my neighbor Marvin’s house and his front hose faucet turned on so I knew it wasn’t a widespread outage. I then returned home and all of my faucets and fixtures inside the house were off. The front hose bib would not turn so I knew we had issues.
Let’s face it, it’s cold here in Northern Utah and our pipes are prone to freezing. The thermometer said minus 1 this morning and I think it has warmed up to about 8 degrees now and we might make it to 10-15 degrees later this afternoon. The point is, no matter how new or old your home, please go open one faucet and allow it to drip slowly until we warm up to near freezing again.
GO AND TURN ON A FAUCET AND ALLOW IT TO DRIP.
I hate it when our pipes freeze. This happened about 4 years ago and it made a huge mess of our laundry room and garage. And unfortunately here we go again...
As I tried to turn the hose bib on, it dawned on me that this pipe is tapped off the water main where it comes through the foundation in the basement under the stairs. So we removed all of the items under the stairs and placed a space heater there to warm the chilled area. Next I flashed back to the news story earlier this morning that talked about the man who caught his modern stucco house on fire as he took a heating torch and tried to thaw out his exterior hose bib. The excessive heat traveled through the wall and caught the sheathing and framing on fire. I knew I needed to get the hose bib working again, so I went in the house and got a blow dryer and headed outside.
The plug was right near the hose bib, so I plugged in and started to warm-up the pipes while I had my son Adam inside under the stairs looking for any leaks. When water freezes, it expands and it is not uncommon for this to happen and then as the ice thaws the ruptured pipe starts to spray water everywhere. I speak from experience and I had the exterior shut off key ready to turn the system off at the meter, if needed. After about 3 minutes Adam started yelling that he heard water flowing, but after looking further we were relieved to see it coming from the bathroom sink where we had left the faucet valve open. None appeared in under the stairs... Whew!
But don’t thin we were out of the woods yet. The freeze happened at the front hose bib and I still had not got it working yet. I went back with the blow dryer and it finally opened up after another 2-3 minutes. Unfortunately the valve had split inside the wall and when the valve is opened up the water comes out the end and also inside the wall. When the valve is shut off there is no leaks. This means I have a job to do once the weather warms up. For now I will just not use the hose bib.
WARNING ONE: If you have a garden hose hooked up to your exterior faucet, then you are in trouble. The water in the hose freezes and then chases up the hose. My hose was disconnected since back in October.
WARNING TWO: Referred to as anti-freeze hose bibs, the modern exterior water valves can still freeze. Cover them with an insulation cover. They sell these for cheap, but you can also just wrap your exterior faucets with a towel until you can get the $2-$3 foam covers at the home center.
WARNING THREE: Allow a faucet to drip. This movement of water somehow helps to prevent the freezing. It may sound cray and it may cost you a couple of dollars, but frozen pipes will cost you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in repairs and damaged items, not to mention the grief.
Please share this warning immediately with your friends and family... Don’t delay. If it can happen to me, then it could happen to any of you!
Michael Leavitt - Orem, Utah - www.TheHomeInspector.com