More Tips to Keep Your Pipes From Freezing

And it looks like you'll need them this winter.

winter plumbing tips cracked copper pipe from freezing

If your builder didn’t properly insulate your pipes when your home was built, you could find this in your basement – or even worse, in an exterior wall. | iStock photo by BanksPhotos

Last winter, as the temperatures plummeted, we gave you five tips for keeping your pipes from freezing courtesy of Joseph Giannone Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning.

But we had only one really cold snap last year. This winter, the arctic blasts seem to be coming in waves. Overnight lows on Wednesday (Jan. 30th) are forecast to fall into the single digits, and the temperatures will remain below freezing until Saturday afternoon.

Every winter, when those arctic blasts pass through Philadelphia, pipes begin to freeze in temperatures 25 degrees or below. This is also when Giannone Plumbing owner Joe Giannone receives a spike in calls.

In addition to those five tips, Giannone recommends you check to see that your house isn’t exposing your plumbing to the cold needlessly.

Giannone told Phillymag about the importance of builders following regulations found in the building codes for contractors. “We take apart walls for house inspections and notice that builders are ignoring codes for a quick fix. We diagnose and prescribe solutions first,” he says.

The contractors’ codebooks vary depending on the rules each state chooses to adopt, and each city adapts them to their specific building codes as well. For Giannone, the codebook that his company knows best is the International Plumbing Code, produced by the International Code Council (ICC). ICC devotes itself to “developing model codes and standards used in the design, build and compliance process to construct safe, sustainable, affordable and resilient structures.”

The code sets standards for insulating pipes against the cold. It warns against water pipes placed “over crawl spaces, in exterior walls, outside of the building, and attics.” One common violation of this part of the code, Giannone says, occurs when builders locate bathrooms over “breezeways,” or open passageways through buildings.

The codebook also suggests indoor thermostats should remain above 55 degrees. Giannone says this standard is “irrelevant for new construction houses in Philly that are five to ten years old and encounter a higher risk of freezing pipes.” He suggests you set your thermostat no lower than 60 degrees.

Do you plan on going on a winter vacation? Then you should consider draining your house’s water pipes before you go. According to the ICC, “Frozen pipes are one of the biggest risks of property damage when the temperature drops.” They recommend homeowners shut off the main valve and open every faucet (hot and cold) until the system is completely drained. Once you return, simply reopen the main valve until water is running through each faucet.