Bitter cold can leave homes vulnerable

Posted at 11:58 PM, Jan 21, 2013
and last updated 2013-01-22 15:27:58-05

The experts say it's as simple as shutting the outside air vents around your foundation and making sure you leave faucets dripping to help prevent a major household disaster.

Some homeowners know well what can happen when pipes pop or burst underneath and inside the walls of your home.

A Chesterfield mom has lived the nightmare. 

“[The freeze] did about $80,000 dollars of damage,” said Kimberly Wagenknecht. “It was one of those nights where it was 16 degrees." 

"We even left the faucets dripping , but when we woke up the next morning, I turned on the kitchen faucet  and the pipes were shaking," she said.  It sounded like a waterfall underneath us."

The cold weather took a toll on her rental home’s aging infrastructure.

Experts, however, say age or type of piping doesn't always matter.  “Copper, plastic, it'll do it to both,”  said David Butler.  “It's the temperature."  Butler owns ServePro of Hanover and is often on duty to clean up the water mess.

When temperatures drop into the teens, he says he’s got some good tips.   “If you have a wind chill and the vents are left open, it's a one-degree drop for every two m.p.h. of wind, putting a lot of stress on those pipes to freeze," Butler said.

The experts warn pipe problems come with little to no warning.  They urge you know where your emergency shut-off water valve is.  Because even if you’re home to catch it, it doesn't take much time for water to do some serious damage.

“I had to replace the sub-flooring, the carpet, it was awful," said Wagenknecht .

Another piece of advice: if you've had pipe work done, Butler says make sure contractors re-insulate the pipes.  He says he’s seen some pipes left exposed to the elements, which in cold weather can cause a faster break.