As temperatures rise in the coming days, many will breathe a sigh of relief and think the worst is over, but unfortunately there is more to be done. As we thaw out, the hidden damage will become much more evident. Vigilance is as important as ever in the coming days.
Here is a summary of activities you can take to mitigate damage. This is not an all-inclusive list; however, we hope to cover the most common systems. As always, we recommend service and inspections be done by trained professionals.
Home Water Supply
If you observe a leak, turn off the water supply immediately then work to clean it up. It is extremely important to know how to turn off the water to your home.
Action Item – Locate your water shut offs now. Have a T bar, a medium size crescent wrench and/or channel locks at the ready if you need to shut it off at the meter. Most shut offs in the wall of the garage will have a handle that is easily turnable. Video
Action Item – Fill tubs with water so if you do have to turn off water you will have water for cooking and toilets. You can also replenish with snow and ice.
FYI – Your fire sprinklers will NOT be shut off by the house shut off control. In some cities your fire sprinklers will NOT be connected to your water meter. You will need to shut those off at the riser (see below).
The foam covers for the exterior hose bibs can only do so much. Covering those faucets may have been in vain this year. With temperatures this low for so long, we suspect many of these hose bibs have frozen up. The question is if they have busted or will they thaw out. Pay close attention to your hose bibs. In many cases, there will be indications of a leak with cascading icicles.
Action Item – Turn off the house water at the shut off or meter once a hose bib is flowing water and cannot be turned off by its handle.
Action Item – In some cases, the water will be coming out from the inside of the hose bib. If that is the case, you may be able to connect a hose with a handheld sprayer on to the hose bib and stop or dramatically slow the water until it can be repaired. Have a hose with a sprayer attachment ready to go.
FYI – You may need channel locks to get hose attached to the hose bib securly.
Most water heaters will protect themselves from freezing, however if you have extended power outages on electrical heaters or tankless heaters, or if gas service was disrupted on tanked systems, they may have frozen up. Be aware that even if your water heaters have not frozen up, the water supply line to them may have frozen.
Action Item – Turn on your hot water faucets and notice the flow rate, if it is similar to your cold water rate your lines are most likely all clear. On the other hand, if you are still in freezing temperatures and are not able to keep your water heaters heated, leave hot water flowing in the faucets on farthest side of house from the water heaters about a quarter turn (just a bit more than a trickle).
Action Item – While running your hot water faucets, inspect your water heaters and attached lines for any signs of water leaking. We suggested repeated inspections as temperatures rise as sometimes stress on pipe fittings and connections may not show right away.
Action Item – Use a hair dryer to gently warm up the cold-water supply to your water heater, if water is not flowing into the water heaters. Be careful not to melt the insulation foam or piping. Once water is running, keep it running until the temperature gets above freezing.
FYI – Do NOT use your hair dryer on the tankless water heater unit. Only use it for the water supply line feeding into the unit. Only warm up the cold-water line enough to get water flowing. Be gentle if you can’t get water moving, warm it up enough to turn the supply valve to off. Be prepared for leaks to develop and always be careful when handling electric devices around water.
FYI – You are going to have a large gas/electric bill and water bill if you left your hot water dripping. However, this will still be less than what a ruptured water line or water heater would cost you to repair.
FYI – If you have a fully encapsulated home and your water heaters are in the attic then you should not need to heat the supply lines up or keep them running continuously.
If your interior faucets never froze up, you are usually in the clear but never take it for granted. Typically, we find faucets that are on exterior walls in unconditioned spaces (garages, workshops, etc..) are most susceptible.
Action Item – Turn on all faucets at sinks, tubs and showers and let them run a minute. Pay close attention for any strange noises, changes in water flow/pressure, loose tile, discoloration of grout, stained sheetrock or swelling wood.
Action Item – Flush toilets and pay close attention if the tanks fill up normally and if there is any sign of water coming from the shut off valve below the tank connecting to the house water supply. If your tank froze up, observe if the components are working properly after thawing out and if the flapper cap fully seals off when closed. Look to see if water is coming from where the tank attaches to the bowl.
Remedy – If you observe a leak or toilet tank failure, you can turn off the shut off to that fixture (if there is one). If there is not a shut off, you will most likely have to turn off the water to your home. Video
Remedy – If you have a valve that is frozen, but water is flowing elsewhere you can take a hair dryer and gently heat up the valve. Turn the water on (after removing the hairdryer from the area) and once it flows leave it dripping (if still below freezing).
Remedy – Leave shower doors and tub enclosures open during freeze events so the warm house air can circulate inside.
Most irrigation system damage will not be noticed until you run the system.
Action Item – Run every zone of your system and carefully observe each sprinkler head, soaker line and valve box. Look for flowing water, depressions in the soil, washouts of dirt or a misshaped water stream.Action Item – Pay close attention to the valve boxes as these are the most common areas for damage. These are round plastic boxes with green covers scattered throughout the yard. They are about 6” in diameter.
Action Item – Turn off the water to your irrigation system until you have an opportunity to inspect and repair. This can be done without turning the water off to your home. Video
Remedy – If you observe a leak or damage, turn off your sprinklers at the valve box located near the water meter box, most commonly found in your front yard near the street. Video
FYI – After the amount of snow we had you won’t need to water your lawn for a while, but don’t wait too long for the repair as your home still needs even moisture content around its foundation.
We say this with caution, as fire sprinklers are life safety features of your home; However, to minimize potential water damage we advise if you have not yet done so, to consider draining your sprinkler system. This will remove water from the line so if you do have a break it will minimize damage. Video
Action Item – To drain your lines find the riser (often in a closet) and turn both handles so they are perpendicular to the pipe. If they are hard to turn, use a hair dryer to gently warm them until you can fully turn them about 90 degrees.
Action Item – Go to the far end of your home from the riser and find the drain valve. Open it up and leave it open. The more water you hear flow out the better. Leave it open so as frozen water melts it will drain out.
Action Item – After draining the drain valve go back to the riser. There will be a hose bib valve near the top. Connect a hose to this and drain the line into a sink or tub drain. If you do not have a hose, you can hold a bucket up underneath the valve and open it slowly to empty the line. It will take multiple buckets. Close this drain line when done.
Action Item – After draining call your fire sprinkler contractor to schedule an inspection and necessary repairs. Do NOT pressure up your system until it has been inspected.
FYI – When draining from the riser you will hear gurgling and air bubbles. It will take time for the air to rise up and more water to come out. Wait until it is completely empty. You may want to check back periodically because as ice melts more water will need to be drained at a later time.
FYI – You will NOT have fire sprinkler protection for your home and family with the system turned off. Care should be taken for fire hazards and work to get it turned back on as quickly as possible.
Swimming Pool & Spa
If you had extended power outages, it is likely your pool/spa filter are frozen solid. If you have not yet done so, turn the breaker off to the filter. If your pool has not operated continuously and/or has solid sheet ice over the top, the odds are not good, however it is worth trying the following.
Action Item – Physically inspect the area around the filter, pipes and pool. As the everything thaws out, broken pipes and assemblies will often become evident from the signs of water.
Action Item – If you do not see any signs of leaks, you may want to turn on your filter and observe it running. Do not do this until the pool and filter have thawed out and there is no ice blocking the inlets. Also make sure your pool has enough water for the skimmers to intake. Turn on the filter and observe its operation as well as the assemblies around the pool. Listen for strange noises and look for signs of leaks or a decrease in pool levels.
Action Item – If you turn on the pump and notice no water movement or strange noises from the filter assembly, turn it off and wait for your pool technician.
Remedy – If you observe a leak, or possible leak, turn off the breaker and await your pool contractor.
Exposed water features are very susceptible to freeze damage. Turn the power off to the assembly and wait for them to fully thaw out. In most cases the water supply comes from your irrigation system which may be turned off.
Action Item – When unit is fully thawed out, fill it with water and power up the pump. Observe for changes in water flow, strange noises, water leaks or growing wet spots in the ground near the water feature.
Action Item – Know where the water fill shut off and breaker is for the feature so you can turn if off if damage is observed.
Remedy – Turn off power and water supply and have the relevant service professional evaluate for repairs. Do not run system if there is a leak or reduced water flow.
FYI – Check back frequently over the coming days as stress in the lines may lead to a break after periodic use.
FYI – Many subsurface pumps may survive extended freezes, so waiting for it to full thaw may yield good news.
Most of the water wells our owners have include freeze safeguards, however when the power goes out those are of little use.
Action Item – Once temperatures are well above freezing, turn on your well at the breaker and open the flush valve. If water flows freely for a continuous period of time that is a good sign. Slowly close the flush valve and observe the well head to see if there are any signs of stress, discoloration, leaks or unusual noises. If in doubt, turn the well off. We recommend periodic inspections even if no signs of damage are readily evident.
Action Item – Use the relevant items that are attached to the well (most commonly irrigation or pond fills) and observe the pump operate for a period of time. Be prepared to turn off the unit if you observe leaks or hear unusual noises.
Remedy – If you see a leak, or the well is not operating properly, turn off the power and await your licensed well contractor to come out and evaluate.
FYI – Most wells are used for irrigation so please do not wait too long as you need to keep your moisture content consistent around your foundation. If your well provides you house water supply, please consult you well contractor if any additional safeguard are necessary.
If you HVAC system is not working you probably know it by now, however there are a few things you can do just to be sure.
- Action Item – Inspect all your systems. Listen for strange noises, water in the drain pan or flashing lights on zone boards (if applicable).
- Action Item – Turn on all your systems and make sure they are all blowing warm air (don’t try the ACs it is too cold for them to run).
- Action Item – Make sure your Wi-Fi T-stats are still on your network and are properly programmed.
Remedy – If you have any issues contact your licensed HVAC contractor for a service call.
Remedy – Make sure you are having all your HVAC systems serviced at least twice a year. These inspections can often catch problems early on.
FYI – Be patient on scheduling a technician, as they will be prioritizing homes with no HVAC service over homes with some operating HVAC units.
Please remember our construction infrastructure was already stressed prior to this storm. Our industry is going to be reallocating plumbers, HVAC techs, electricians, landscapers and fire sprinkler contractors towards repairs. Our renovation group will be gearing up for repairs to damaged homes which includes flooring contractors, sheet rockers, painters, carpenters, and more.
The reality is there is not enough hours in the day or workers to accommodate everyone as quickly as they would like. Please be patient and understanding.
- Action Item – If you have damage, even if you are not sure it will trigger your deductible, reach out to your insurance company for instructions. Take pictures and videos to document for the adjuster.
- Action Item – If you have damage, even if you are not exactly sure of what is involved, reach out to your trusted builder/contractor and get on his/her list. Don’t wait as the longer you wait the further down the list you will be before someone can get to your property.
FYI – If you have catastrophic damage, start looking for a rent house or apartment now. When you find one grab it as demand will be high. Most insurance policies cover temporary lodging. Consult with your insurance agent on coverage.
We know storm damage is never a pleasant experience and if you did suffer damage, we are very sorry. By taking prompt action similar to what is noted above you can help minimize the damage and expedite the repair process. If we can ever be of service, please call at 817.748.2669 or visit our website at GarabedianProperties.com.
Until we visit again, we wish you a warm safe week.