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It’s HVAC Leak Season

hvac systemOutside temperatures are soaring, HVAC air conditioning systems are running constantly as a result. When the hot air of your house gets sucked into your HVAC system return and travels past the coiling coil the result will be an accumulation of water / moisture at the coil location. Your HVAC air handler / blower will collect the condensation water & direct it through a pipe away from the unit. If your blower is in your attic, this condensation line will be pitched toward your gutter where gravity can allow the drainage water to easily drain down to the ground below. Homes that have air handlers in a basement will often have no available way to gravity drain this condensation water to the exterior, in these situations the water is gravity drained to an electrically fed condensation pump. The condensation pump will have the ability to pump the water vertically into a higher internal sewer line or possibly out the exterior via a pipe drilled through the foundation.

Most HVAC systems will not only have this primary condensation drain but will also have a secondary condensation pan (a.k.a. drip pan) below the condensation coil. This pan can collect quite a bit of water if the primary drain is not draining sufficiently. Typically, this secondary drain would get directed to the same gutter location but instead of dumping water into the gutter the installers direct this water over the gutter so homeowners can be alerted to act immediately if they ever see water dripping from this secondary condensation drain. Water exiting this secondary drain means that the primary drain is not functioning properly. There may also be a “high water” shutoff switch within the drip pan to act as a unit “cut-off” switch which would stop the unit from working. The triggering of this switch means that the primary & secondary drain both are likely clogged, and the drip pan is becoming very full.

flood in the basement
Once your HVACs condensation system stops draining away water as designed you can be faced with a substantial internal water condition.

Once your HVAC system condensation system stops draining away water as designed you can be faced with a substantial internal water condition equivalent to leaving a water faucet turned on. The amount of internal water damage to ceilings, walls, floors can be extensive and very costly to cleanup & repair. If this leak occurs when you are at work, or even worse, while on vacation, the ensuing damages can be catastrophic especially with the specter of advanced microbial growth in higher temperature locations like attics, closets and other non-cooled areas of your dwelling.

It’s HVAC leak season, be sure to have regular servicing of your HVAC system

It’s HVAC leak season, best to take a preventative approach by having your air handler condensation lines cleaned prior to turning on your air conditioning units. Regular servicing of your HVAC system should be done with yearly cleaning & maintenance. During this maintenance process the filters would get replaced, the coil would get cleaned and most importantly the condensation line that directs the water away from the air handler would be flushed / cleaned. For those who have sustained internal damage from an HVAC leak or overflow of the drip pan, we recommend you have a water damage cleanup contractor come do an emergency cleanup & dehumidification of the affected areas to prevent the rapid onslaught of dangerous mold growth.

For more information on other water damage related topics, please visit our blog @ truerestorations.com/blog

The True Restorations Team

Ice Damming, is this worthy of an insurance claim

ice damming in gutter
Radiating heat will thaw the growing ice sheet and cause water to drip onto the ceiling or floor system and down & within the outside wall affecting the framing, insulation, sheetrock, windows, doors, electrical wiring, etc.

Ice Damming, is this worthy of an insurance claim? First, let’s understand what is occurring with an ice dam. Your typical ice dam will occur when the underside of a sloped roofs snow layer melts from the radiating heat within a structure below. That melted snow (water) will run down the roof shingles to the lowest portion of the roof, typically the uninsulated, unheated roof overhang and into a gutter or off the roof. During times of extreme cold, that water runoff will rapidly freeze at the overhang, before it exits into the gutter and forms into a growing block or dam of ice. The ice dam allows more runoff to collect and rapidly freeze into a sheet of ice that will continue to grow & expand back up the roof. The ice will grow under the roof shingles & even under the membrane below the shingles, which is typically called felt paper or tar paper on older roofs. Once the growing ice sheet grows high enough to reach the outside wall of the house, the radiating heat below will thaw the growing ice sheet and cause water to drip onto the ceiling or floor system and down & within the outside wall affecting the framing, insulation, sheetrock, windows, doors, electrical wiring, etc. This leak could be the entire length of the exterior walls, 30-50 feet or more.

mold behind kitchen cabinets
Ice dam leaks occur often in kitchen areas. When this occurs, the wall cabinets, base cabinets, countertops & backsplashes need to be removed to access the wet walls behind them.

Ice damming is a serious condition that can result in hazardous mold & expensive repairs

Ice damming is a serious condition that will need to be addressed ASAP, especially with the likely trapped water and moisture within exterior walls, ceiling & roof systems. The trapped moisture can and will cause hazardous, unseen, harmful mold to grow if left unaddressed. Water infiltrating electrical devices within these hidden cavities is another major concern that should be investigated and dealt with. An experienced water damage restoration contractor will seek out the trapped moisture with a host of specialized tools including, non-invasive moisture meters, thermal imaging cameras, invasive moisture probes to check for wet insulation. Once insulation gets wet, it won’t dry out naturally and will need to be physically removed. Sadly, the proper way to mitigate this condition is to strip the walls down to the studs to expose the wet framing members & exterior wall/roof sheathing. The wall, ceiling & roof cavities can be dried with air moving equipment coupled with industrial strength dehumidifiers. Exposing the hidden cavities also gives access to the potentially compromised electrical connections for inspection & replacement, if needed.

To make matters even worse, these ice dam leaks occur often in kitchens areas that have cabinet runs on the exterior walls. When this occurs, the wall cabinets, base cabinets, countertops & backsplashes typically need to be removed to access the wet walls behind them. This will make living in the dwelling during the cleanup & repairs extra challenging for inhabitants.

File a claim

gutter damageBased on our field experience in dealing with these situations and the snowballing costs to not only properly mitigate & cleanup the damages but coupled with the repair costs to replace the demolished items, it really is a “no brainer” to file a claim. Stopping the ice dam causing the leak is tricky and not likely covered by your insurance policy. That work should be done before you mitigate & should be done by a competent roofer with the use of a more modern roof membrane called “rain & ice shield”. Newer roofs should already have this membrane and if installed correctly should prevent a leak from an ice dam. Stopping an ice dam from even occurring is another ball of wax that would require a more exotic intervention such as heating the roof overhang with heating elements, which is rarely done and likely very costly to install.

If you see water stains or dripping water in many locations along an exterior wall or floor / ceiling at an exterior wall, suspect an ice damn & call a water damage restoration contractor for an immediate assessment. Early intervention can help minimize the damage which will minimize the overall amount of needed demolition, disruption & cost to you.

We hope you found this information helpful. If interested in viewing more damage restoration information please visit our blog at https://truerestorations.com/blog/
The True Restorations Team

Frozen Pipes, Prevention and Repairs

frozen pipesFrozen pipes not only cause an inconvenience but can potentially lead to significant water damage to a home or business. When water freezes it expands, water contained within a pipe that becomes frozen can cause the pipe to develop a hole or tear in the pipe or a crack in a pipe fitting. This would normally cause a pipe to leak immediately as the water in the pipe is under pressure. Due to the formation of ice, the pipe break will not show itself as a water leak but rather as no water flowing at all to one or more of your water fixtures. If your water main has a frozen section you will likely lose water to your entire home.

water leak When your frozen pipe begins to thaw out and broken or compromised area will begin to leak immediately, often with great volume & intensity. To make matters worse, these broken pipes are mostly hidden behind sheetrock or are located in crawlspaces or other remote areas making their discovery & eventual repair time-consuming & difficult. Additionally, when you have one frozen pipe, you often have multiple locations of pipe that are frozen, and discovering all of these can be very time-consuming & costly to repair & replace the affected finishes that were removed for access. 

Below are a few tips and tricks on what to do when you have a frozen or burst pipe  & how to prevent the pipes from freezing in the 1st place.

Quick tips to take to prevent frozen pipes:

  • Maintain heat in your structure. If you lose heat, pipes can freeze quickly.
  • Allow water to drip from the faucets. Running water, even a trickle, will slow down the pipe-freezing process
  • Open cabinet doors so warm air can reach under sinks where exposed pipes are typically located
  • Seal up any holes or gaps with caulking or spray foam at locations such as where pipes run through the walls, floors & cabinets. Cold air blowing against water pipes (especially copper pipes) will quickly freeze pipes
  • Insulation of pipes or areas surrounding pipes in areas where water pipes are exposed to cold outside temperatures (crawlspaces & garages)
  • Install electronic heat cables (a.k.a. “heat tracers”), which are thermostat controlled and designed to activate when a temperate drop in the pipe is detected and shut off when desired warming temperature is met. Note: these devices require an electrical connection.

 

Quick Tips on what do you do if your pipe freezes or bursts

  • Shut your water main valve off. This is usually located in the front of your home facing the street. Oftentimes located in a basement or crawlspace of a utility closet. 
  • Call a plumber to help unfreeze the pipe and to be on the scene in case any leaks occur during thaw out. 
  • When you have a full-on water leak from a burst pipe, consider calling a full-service water restoration contractor instead of just a plumber. The restoration contractor can not only fix your pipe but can also assist with the cleanup, dry down, insurance claim & repairs of all affected finishes needed.

For more helpful information, read our page on water damage restoration.

The True Restorations Team

Running Toilet Leads to Sewer Back up with Costly Cleanup

toiletA running toilet is NOT a big problem, right? You’re only losing a little water & water is not that expensive, agreed… However, did you know that a running toilet can allow up to 20 gallons of water into your drain lines? If you have a septic system as opposed to a city sewer hookup you should address this condition ASAP as cesspools & septic tanks can fill up quickly from a running toilet.

Common residential septic tanks/cesspools range in size from 750 gallons to 1,250 gallons and at 20 gallons a day, they could completely fill up in 30-60 days. Septic systems are designed to drain out & leech into the ground so you will likely have more time before they fill up. However, once the leeching capabilities slow down or the leaching rate is slower than the influx of water from the running toilet, you’re on the countdown to having a sewer backup. Sewer water, (a.k.a.category 3) water contains unhealthy, dangerous bacteria and harmful microbes remain on all exposed surfaces that the water touches and will become airborne once the surfaces become dry. These surfaces must be cleaned or removed & replaced to eliminate the potential health risks from exposure.

A simple fix quickly turns into a costly cleanup

We do emergency cleanup work & most of our work is insurance-related. Sewer backup coverage for our clients is typically limited if it even exists on an insurance policy at all. When there is a policy limit, it’s often just $5,000. The total payout limit is usually paid to cover the cleanup & repair costs. The bad news is a typical sewer backup will be close to $5K for just the cleanup, and repairs are usually twice the cleanup costs. The restoration industry insurance cleanup standards dictate that all building products that come in contact with sewer water (cat 3 water) get either cleaned with a biocide type cleaner or get demolished & replaced. Applying this standard often requires the removal of rugs, flooring, moldings, sheetrock, interior doors & so on…This can really add up quickly and make the repair very costly.

Our clients are in a very difficult position when they experience a sewer backup with little to no insurance coverage. They must choose between spending money on proper cleaning or improper, incomplete, or even non-existent cleaning to save money. that can be inhaled or ingested through constant contact. To minimize out-of-pocket expenses, they often choose to do little to no demolition and often attempt an improper cleanup on their own.

Be proactive, repair your running toilet

We highly recommend you take action on that running toilet so that simple, low-cost repair doesn’t grow into a very costly monster problem from a sewer backup due to a full cesspool. If you do have a flooded basement from a sewer backup, don’t hesitate to call a licensed, insured, experienced restoration contractor for evaluation & assistance on proper cleaning.

For more valuable information on other blog restoration cleaning topics, please visit our blog here. To learn about fixing a running toilet read “How to stop a running toilet”.

The True Restorations Team

Frozen Pipes, What to Do

Winter is coming, and when temperatures drop below 32 degrees your pipes can freeze and even burst. When this happens, it can potentially lead to significant water damage to your home. Water floods at an alarming rate of 4-8 gallons of water an hour. What starts as a small leak can quickly escalate to a full emergency. Especial vulnerable areas are exterior walls, crawl spaces, and attics — also, areas exposed to cold flowing air.

Quick tips to prevent frozen pipes:

  • On extremely cold days turn up your thermostat a few degrees
  • Allow warm water to drip from the faucet overnight
  • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors so warm air can reach under sinks
  • Seal up any holes or gaps where pipes run through the wall floor with caulk or spray insulation

Permanent solutions to consider:

  • Insulation of pipes or areas surrounding pipes (exterior walls, crawlspace, garage, attics)
  • Install electronic heat cables, which are thermostatically controlled and designed to activate when a temperate drop is detected and shut off when the desired warming temperature is met

If a water leak happens should I file an insurance claim?

When a water leak occurs, the initial reaction is to stop the leak. Once stopped, most people will attempt a quick clean up by themselves. They sop up all the water and notice some damage to the floors, walls, base moldings and doors. They review their insurance policy and see it has a $1,000 deductible and wonder, “how much will all this cost to fix?” They call their insurance agent for advice, and luckily their agent is knowledgeable and committed to high levels of customer service, and recommends that they call in a trusted restoration contractor for a free consultation

The recommended restoration contractor arrives and tests the affected floors, walls and finishes for signs of trapped moisture with a moisture meter. He explains that even though the puddles are gone, the water has soaked up in-and-behind the sheetrock and trim. Without proper water mitigation and de-humidification, this trapped moisture can rapidly start dangerous mold growth within the unseen walls.

The estimate for the mitigation is $3000 to $5000 and the repairs including replacement of the ripped-out floors and walls is $10,000 to $12,000. If all this wasn’t traumatizing enough, the restoration contractor explains that most homeowners’ policies won’t cover mold growth unless the mold condition was created by a “covered” water loss. He says, “I’ve seen this a countless number of times, there is a profound trapped moisture condition that people don’t feel they need to start a claim for and try to mitigate it themselves…unsuccessfully. Months later, they discover the presence of mold and can’t get coverage because they never started a claim for the water condition. They should have started a claim immediately, got it covered as a water loss and with this “covered loss” status, they would have had mold coverage protection.

The motto of this story is had they first called in a full-service restoration contractor who did the complete job from start to finish it would have only cost the homeowner their $1,000 deductible. Also, they would have been no fear of mold growth because the job was done correctly from the beginning!

Water damage – do it yourself or call in a pro?

Water Damage inside your home can come from broken pipes, broken or defective appliances such as boiler and hot water heater leaks, Also, wind driven rain or rising water from a flood or other ground water penetrations are other ways that water can penetrate a home. Besides the obvious cleanup of standing water, most people don’t understand all the unseen damage and the potential consequences of improperly mitigating (cleanup) the unseen trapped moisture.

The starting point for every water condition should be an immediate call to a professional water damage restoration company. These companies have specialized training and moisture assessment equipment and experience in assessing every type of water condition. A competent water technician from a water damage cleanup company will also have valuable insight in the insurance claims process if your water condition warrants initiating an insurance claim. Once a claim is started, the restoration contracting pro can be an invaluable resource and a liaison when interacting with the insurance adjuster.

Understanding building construction is another advantage “the pros” have over most homeowners during the initial survey of water damages. Understanding the travel path of water and knowing where to look for trapped moisture is another benefit of bringing in a professional.

Specialized tools used to detect trapped moisture hidden within, behind & under finished surfaces is what the water tech will use and is yet another reason why you should call a pro. The tech will use invasive, pin type penetrating moisture detecting probes as well as non-invasive surface scanning water meters and infrared thermal scanning tools to probe and detect surfaces for signs of trapped moisture. Once the survey is complete, a moisture map and mitigation plan will be formulated to effectively dry down the affected space.

Water Removal Only?

Water Damage Cleanup And Restoration Long Island NYWater damage in Long Island is not uncommon, with it being surrounded by water and all. But it doesn’t mean you should take it lightly. The water pooling up on your floor may get sucked up but the unseen water & moisture behind walls & under the flooring can wreck tremendous havoc if not dealt with properly. Have a professional take care of flooded basement water removal as well as detecting, exposing & drying hidden, trapped moisture before mold growth occurs will ensure the safety of you and your family. True Restorations, a top company dedicated to water damage restoration in Long Island NY, ensures complete removal, cleanup, and restoration of your home.

You wake up one morning to find 1” of water throughout your finished basement. You search for the source but are unable to find a broken pipe or cracked plumbing pipe. You remember that there was a torrential downpour late last night & that somehow this build-up of water must have found some way to get into your basement. You think “this is going to be a lot of work”. After a call to your insurance agent, you learn that groundwater entering your home from this situation is known as ‘seepage” and that there is no coverage under your current policy for this type of work. Now what??

You go to your laptop computer, open up Google and type in “flooded basement water removal company near me”. After perusing a few sites & make a few appointments for site visits for an evaluation & quote, then, and only then does the magnitude of the coming cleanup occur to you.

The first company to respond in for an assessment & quote was a local, reputable, highly rated water restoration company. Their assessment echoes your insurance agents, there likely will be no coverage, this work will have to be paid “out of pocket”. The restoration tech also explains many other aspects of a proper clean-up that you have never heard about. Terms like: category 3 water, elevated moisture readings showing trapped moisture in sheetrocked walls, potential harmful mold growth as a result of improper dry down of the affected structure. They present you with a quote for full water restoration services as per the IICRC guidelines. You think…..”Wow, this is way more work than you were thinking, all you want is the water removed”. You thank them for the quote and then wait for a second evaluation.

The second company to respond to your request for help is a local plumber who specializes in pump-outs, typically sewer backups. He is not trained in water restoration and doesn’t even own a water meter that can detect elevated moisture readings in sheetrock, wood or even concrete or other surfaces. The plumber says, “only 1” of water….this is a piece of cake, I will have this water soaked up in 45 minutes”. He recommends that you set up a few fans to help dry everything down. He also recommends to maybe spray some bleach and do additional precautionary clean up.  He gives you a price that is about one-quarter of what the restoration contractor quoted.

After the two assessments & quotes and some thoughtful reflection, you make your decision on what to do. This scenario will play out for countless property owners, over & over again…… every day. Which direction any particular property will be determined by factoring available monies coupled with risk tolerance. If you can afford to pay to have the restoration contractor who is licensed, insured & trained to perform a full water restoration project with complete dry down and anti-microbial treatment and you absolutely are risk-averse to exposing your family to the potentially harmful affects of improperly cleaned surfaces or potential mold infestation. If your situation presents you with limited unavailable disposable income and an inability to access credit to pay for services, you may be forced to hire the “cheap guy” even knowing or wanting the full restoration & cleanup offered by the trained, competent restoration contractor.

We at True Restorations are realistic & understanding about any one person’s particular financial situation and ability to pay for services will vary. We will respond to these types of emergencies for a free consultation. We will provide pricing for full restoration services as well as ala carte pricing for less than a complete water restoration project as we realize that without proper insurance coverage, some clients will need a modified scope of work that they can realistically afford.  We do however seek an indemnification from our clients for protection against not following the IICRC guidelines for proper restoration along with executing the modified cleanup & dry down of the affected structure.

If your home or business is affected by water in any way, please call us right away at 631-757-0212 for an immediate response, consultation & quote for services.

To know more about other services visit here

 

True Restorations Inc.

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Water Damage in Long Island Homes or Businesses

tidal water floodNеѕtlеd іn bеtwееn Long Iѕlаnd Sоund аnd the Atlаntіс Oсеаn, thе rеѕіdеntѕ оf Lоng Iѕlаnd are uѕеd tо having tо deal wіth wаtеr dаmаgе оf оnе kіnd оr another. Flооd аnd tide wаtеrѕ rіѕе аnd еnvеlор bаѕеmеntѕ аlоng thе coast, ѕеwаgе ѕуѕtеmѕ bасk up during the wіntеr аnd саn’t handle thе hеаvу рrесіріtаtіоnѕ. In Sрrіng, snow mеlt саuѕеѕ additional water dаmаgе problems on Lоng Iѕlаnd. It іѕ lосаtеd іn a Nоrthеrn zоnе оf thе country that frequently sees аdvеrѕе weather conditions.

Lоng Iѕlаnd, unlіkе mаnу of thе other boroughs оf Nеw Yоrk City, іѕ mаdе uр of ѕіnglе family hоmеѕ аnd duplexes thаt have trаdіtіоnаl gutters and dоwnѕроutѕ. Thеѕе need tо be kept clean аnd unobstructed, particularly durіng wіntеr mоnthѕ, tо avoid water dаmаgе. Dоwnѕроutѕ should bе еxtеndеd оut from the hоmе ѕіx tо еіght feet and thе lоt іtѕеlf ѕhоuld be grаdеd ѕо wаtеr drаіnѕ оff properly.

From Hеmрѕtеаd tо thе Hаmрtоnѕ, Lоng Iѕlаnd is оnе of the most рісturеѕԛuе аnd ореn рlасеѕ іn thе New Yоrk City аrеа. Though nоt соnѕіdеrеd by many tо be раrt of thе city іtѕеlf, Long Island is dеfіnіtеlу a ѕuburb wіthіn striking dіѕtаnсе оf Mаnhаttаn. Thе municipalities аrе іndереndеnt аnd each carries thе rеѕроnѕіbіlіtу оf mаіntаіnіng іtѕ water аnd ѕеwаgе ѕуѕtеm, but the сrоѕѕіng roads, lіkе thе Long Iѕlаnd Exрrеѕѕwау, аrе ѕubjесt tо wаtеr damage аlѕо. Thеѕе fаll undеr thе Stаtе Hіghwау Dераrtmеnt.

The hоmеѕ and buѕіnеѕѕеѕ оf Lоng Iѕlаnd аrе the rеѕроnѕіbіlіtу оf thе owners of thоѕе buіldіngѕ. Water dаmаgе thаt іѕ incurred requires private fundіng tо repair and can bе аvоіdеd with ѕоmе рrесаutіоnаrу measures. Winterizing уоur home is a gооd precaution. Hаvе the basement, rооf and drаіnаgе ѕуѕtеm іnѕресtеd аnd add іnѕulаtіоn іf needed. Wrap уоur ріреѕ. Burѕt pipes can саuѕе ѕіgnіfісаnt wаtеr dаmаgе іn thе winter and lеаd tо the ѕhutdоwn оf уоur heating ѕуѕtеm whеn уоu nееd іt thе mоѕt.

Thе term “wаtеr damage” can rеfеr to a numbеr оf different things. Thе most obvious that соmеѕ to mіnd іѕ flooding thаt rеѕultѕ frоm еlеmеntаl соndіtіоnѕ оr іntеrnаl brеаkѕ іn thе рlumbіng ѕуѕtеm, but there іѕ muсh mоrе to it. The іnіtіаl wаtеr damage, whеn сlеаnеd uр, саn cause residual рrоblеmѕ ѕuсh аѕ mоld and іnѕесt infestations. Thеѕе fасtоrѕ can bе dаmаgіng to the health оf your family аnd hоuѕеhоld реtѕ.

Tо аvоіd mоld buіld-uр, mаkе ѕurе that аll аrеаѕ аffесtеd by wаtеr dаmаgе аrе drіеd thoroughly and аіrеd оut. Wеt wооd саn bе an аttrасtаnt tо tеrmіtеѕ and carpenter аntѕ. Mаnу оf the homes оn Lоng Iѕlаnd аrе wооd ѕtruсturеѕ thаt wеrе buіlt ԛuіtе a fеw уеаrѕ ago and wіll be ореnеd uр to this rеѕіduаl wаtеr dаmаgе іf not treated рrореrlу. Hire a wаtеr dаmаgе рrоfеѕѕіоnаl whо knоwѕ whаt they’re doing whеnеvеr you have a water rеlаtеd problem of аnу kіnd. Evеn bеttеr, hаvе ѕоmе рrеvеntаtіvе rераіrѕ and mаіntеnаnсе dоnе on your home bеfоrе you hаvе tо еxреrіеnсе іt. If you’re going tо lіvе іn a bеаutіful рlасе like Long Iѕlаnd, уоu ѕhоuld live comfortably wіthоut thе headaches оf wаtеr damage.

Contact True Restorations today for immediate help with water damage in your home or business.  Call us 24/7 at 631-757-0212 or email us at service@truerestorations.com.

Frozen Pipes, what to do & how to prevent

When winter comes there are a lot of things to look forward to snow days, hot cocoa near the fireplace and the wearing of warm socks under homey comforters. Enjoying all these would be great until you find out that your water isn’t running. This means that you may have frozen pipes in the house.

Pipe freezing is a common occurrence during cold weathers. It’s best to ensure it doesn’t happen at all. Below you’ll find tips from True Restoration Experts as to the prevention on frozen pipes and the immediate action you should take when it does happen.

Do you have a home or dwelling that has a chronic condition of pipes freezing every winter? In this blog I will touch on the following aspects of frozen pipes:
• How to minimize the chance of pipes freezing by preventative pipe installation techniques & some of the likely causes for frozen pipes and locations of the freeze points
• How to safely unfreeze a pipe
• What will happen if you don’t do anything and wait for the pipe to thaw naturally

How to minimize the chance of pipes freezing by preventative installation techniques:

If you are having an addition done on your existing home or building a new structure, you would hope that your contractor or builder would take precautions and adhere to guidelines that would prevent pipes from freezing but unfortunately, the rules & regulations are not that stringent. As a restoration company of long island, we have noticed some poor quality installation techniques used in every type of structure.

Domestic water pipes & heating pipes are often times run in an unheated crawl as a necessity for the installation of the fixture. There usually are several options for running these pipes. The easier & faster option is to run the pipe below the beams so that time & energy is not wasted in drilling each beam and snaking the pipe through the beams. The slower option is obvious to do all that drilling. In either instance, the pipe should have some kind of pipe insulation over the pipe. Believe it or not, we often find pipes uninsulated and even the floor systems in crawl spaces uninsulated. Running the pipe in between the beams and having the beam cavities filled with fiberglass insulation as well as having the pipe insulated with a rigid insulation installed tightly will protect the pipes from freezing in a crawl space.

Another safe practice for pipe installation is to “never”, as in never ever, run a pipe in an exterior wall, a soffit or an overhang. I laugh at myself because as great as this sounds I have broken this cardinal sin of contracting as sometimes there is just no other way to run the pipe to its needed location. There are some precautions that you can take to lessen the chances of pipes freezing if this is an absolute must. One option would be to fur the wall out (make it thicker) so that more insulation can be installed between the pipe & the outside. A second option would be to add a heat tracer (a thermostatically controlled hard-wired heating element) to the pipe.

Wind infiltration into, above or below heated spaces will be the likely location of a pipe freeze. The tiniest crack or space can let wind in and often times pressurize the air flow through this tighter space. A thermodynamic quality of gas (air) as it changes from higher pressures to lower pressures the gas experiences a cooling effect, this is how an A/C condenser produces cold air for your air conditioner. The A/C condenser condenses the gas (pressurizes it), when the gas is unpressurized at the blower coil, the coil (metal) gets super cold and the fans blow air past the coil to extract the coldness. If you have ever let air pressurized air out of an O2 cylinder or scuba tank rapidly you would notice the freezing effect that it creates on the metal valves. This effect is part of what is causing the pipes of your dwelling to freeze at these wind infiltration points. Super cold conditions without wind can obviously cause pipes to freeze without wind conditions.

Additional pipe installation techniques that would help minimize pipe freezing’s that I won’t expand too much in order to keep this post reasonably short would be:
• The running of pipes through beams (above heated spaces below) & then projecting pipes out into cantilevers minimizing the amount of piping in soffit areas.
• The running of water mains up from below grade into a heated space with no fittings or valves in unheated areas. The valves or fittings become choke points for the water & provide greater metal surface areas to create a higher likelihood of freezing.
• Not using Pex fitting (especially elbow fittings) in unheated spaces. Pex piping is plastic piping & the fittings are metal. The metal acts as a heat sink and amplifies the freezing process at these water choke points. Pex, being plastic, is flexible and can be gradually bent and run in such a manner as to enable it to be installed without fitting to make a 90 degrees turn (elbows).
• The running of pipes to a vanity on an outside wall that comes up from the floor into the bottom of the vanity rather than into the exterior wall would be another recommended practice.

How to safely unfreeze a pipe:

OK, I know you want to grab the portable propane torch and fire up that frozen pipe in your crawl space. This is the most dangerous practice to solve this problem because an open flame in a tight space, coming in contact with wood, insulation paper, plastic piping & plastic wire coatings is a recipe for a disaster. Pipes and wires run through small holes in the framing and in vertical voids of the structure. The torch user can inadvertently send super-hot gases into these voids (condensing the gases which create a greater heating effect on the gases, remember our thermodynamics from above). Unbeknownst to the torch user, a fire is started in this void out of their view and will race up vertically in the void.
The prudent pipe unfreezer person resists the temptation to use the torch & confidently grabs an electric heat gun or hair blow dryer and patiently unfreezes the pipe. Be careful with these electric heat guns as they throw off substantial heat and if held close enough to wood framing members or other flammables can start a fire just like a torch. Keep a safe distance when operating these tools and refer to the operating manual for safe distance recommendations.
Another safe method is to create a sealed cavity or space around the frozen pipe and add a low-level heat source to this cavity for gradual thawing of the pipe. For example, if you had a crawl space that had a frozen pipe & you could somehow create a cavity around the pipe with no wind infiltration (somewhat sealed), you could do something as simple as adding a relatively safe heat source (a lamp or drop light) to this cavity which would eventually heat up this small environment enough to safely & slowly thaw the pipe.

The other safe practice is to wrap the frozen pipe with an electric heat tracer. The heat tracer will gradually thaw the pipe. The heat tracer would often times need to be fed by an extension cord from a more remote power source (outlet)
What will happen if you just wait for the pipe to thaw naturally?
Hmmm, that’s the gambling man (or woman) approach. I like your moxie & I can appreciate gambling as an activity as it’s very exhilarating when you win, but when you lose…not so good, right? One thing to consider and understand is what occurs during the freezing & thawing process.

frozen pipes
freezing temperatures can cause the pipes to split
Water freezes, and if you remember what we all learned in grade school about the qualities of water you will recall that water expands when it changes from a liquid state to a solid state. That expansion of water within a contained environment (a pipe) can cause the pipe to split. This splitting or cracking of the pipe, or the pipe fitting, is the risk with a frozen pipe. Not every frozen pipe will result in a water leak but be aware that you probably won’t know if the pipe is leaking until the pipe thaws by, manually by heating it (heat gun), or if the environment around the pipe is heated (naturally or artificially). The water in the pipes are pressurized so one can imagine that once the thawing reaches a certain point the water will begin to flow rapidly through any break in the pipe or fitting which will leave you minimal time to prevent an even larger water damage condition. A safe practice would be to depressurize the affected pipe by turning the appropriate valve off. Which valve to turn off is anyone’s guess as every situation is different. You could turn the water main off, which would be kind of a catch-all safety measure as all domestic water pipes eventually get their pressure from the main water supply. However, the heating pipes have water within a contained separate system that will have boiler pressure separate from the water main pressure, if a heating pipe is affected, the water feed to the boiler will need to be shut off and the boiler pressure will need to be bled off before thawing the pipe.

Suggestions on how to handle a frozen pipe:

The 1st logical option would be to call a plumber, right? Well, it’s not wrong but it also might not be the best solution. Often times sheetrock or other interior finishes need to be removed and eventually replaced, does a typical homeowner possess the skillset, the tools, the time or the will to do these repairs? A better call would be to a contractor. Contractors have a wider range of skills and can handle most pipe thawing, pipe repair, interior or exterior finish and most importantly can provide a preventative measure to minimize future pipe freezes. The best call to make would be to a full-service restoration contractor. A full-service restoration contractor is like a general contractor on steroids. They have all the capabilities of a general contractor plus the water extraction & dry down equipment to deal with water leaks resulting from a frozen or broken pipe. They also have the knowledge & experience in dealing with insurance claims and can help a homeowner process a claim, if needed. True Restorations promotes its services as “one call does it all” and with a frozen pipe and all the nuances of thawing, repairing and dealing with potential consequences as described above, we are the logical 1st call & only call needed to be made.

Kevin Bevilacqua
President True Restorations, Inc.

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