BENNINGTON -- With sub-zero temperatures being par for the course this winter, several local businesses and residents are learning firsthand the dangers of freezing pipes, and the excessive damages they can cause.
Madison's Brewing Co., of 428 Main Street in Bennington, suffered severe water damage in early January when a pipe burst on the second floor around midnight. By the time an employee arrived at 7:30 a.m., the water had travelled from the second story to the main floor and down into the basement.
"The place was flooded bad," said co-owner Mike Madison in an interview, "All the water from the second story went down three stories into the basement. There the water was up over my shoes." While Madison hoped to get the restaurant running by Martin Luther King Day weekend, the damage ended up being more extensive than it first appeared. While the business has not yet re-opened, Madison posted pictures of newly installed flooring on Facebook on Wednesday of last week, with the caption, "Won't be long now!"
Several residents have had problems as well. "I had radiant heat pipes burst on my rented property," said Frank Levesque of Bennington, "[My] landlord wasn't too pleased, yet he didn't think to ever put glycol in the heating system. The floors were flooded, it made for a wonderful day."
Glycol, a common primary ingredient in antifreeze, has been used to combat freezing pipes since the 1920's. The American Red Cross does not recommend putting any type of antifreeze into outdoor water lines, as it can be toxic to people, pets, and the surrounding landscape. Some glycol-based brands of antifreeze, such as Dowfrost and Tonofrost, use propylene glycol instead of ethylene glycol, and are considerably less toxic and are usually labeled as "non-toxic."
Local resident Amanda McGoven had trouble this winter as well, and said, "Mine froze so bad, they exploded and we had to replace everything in the kitchen and under the house. I wasn't very happy."
Tonya Pegasus, another local resident, was able to thaw her pipes before they caused any serious damage. "I had frozen pipes very recently, and found very little help in this town," she said, "I thought I was going to have to wait until spring to have running water again. He cost of having a plumber come out and thaw them is just not in my budget. I got lucky and had a friend offer to allow me to use her propane heater and the next morning I was under my trailer with heating tape, insulation, and duct tape, I got them thawed!"
Home improvement website TotalHousehold recently released a list of advice for avoiding the flooding that can be caused by frozen pipes. For winterizing outdoor water lines, the site recommends that you "drain water from supply lines outdoors, specifically your swimming pool and sprinkler supply lines. Make sure to follow the manufacturer's or installer's directions when doing so. After draining the water from outdoor supply lines, remove and store any outdoor hoses. Close indoor valves that supply water to outdoor faucets. Drain the water from these faucets and keep the outdoor valve open so that any water in the pipe that freezes is able to expand without breaking the pipe." They note that you can also cover outdoor faucets with Styrofoam insulation covers.
The site also points out several pipes that may be more vulnerable, such as pipes located in unheated areas of the home like attics, garages, crawl spaces, basements, and kitchen and bathroom cabinets, and recommends property owners check these pipes to see if they're insulated. Kitchen and bathroom cabinets can also be left open to ensure good heat circulation, although you should make sure that any potentially dangerous chemicals stored there are kept out of the reach of children. The site also recommends never letting your thermostat dip below 55 degrees, even if you're going to be away from home.
If, however, you find that your preventative steps for keeping the water flowing nicely didn't work as planned, there are some affordable options for unfreezing the pipes. TotalHousehold warns that if your water pressure is uncharacteristically low, you probably have a frozen pipe somewhere in your household. They recommend that in periods of extreme cold weather, property owners check their faucets before they go to bed and when they get up in the morning.
Once you notice lowered water pressure, leave the faucet open and attempt to locate the frozen section of pipe. If you are able to locate the problematic section, the website recommends utilizing an electric heating pad, electric hair dryer, portable space heater, or simply a towel soaked in hot water to warm up the pipe. The use of propane heaters, blowtorches, or any other open flame device is discouraged, as they can lead to house fires, as it is common for pipes to conduct heat from open flames and ignite the wall structure. If you are unable to locate the frozen section of pipe, it may be time to call a plumber, as the cost of the plumber would likely be considerably less than the water damage that would be caused if the pipe were to burst.
Finally, if a pipe does burst in your home or business, be sure to turn off the main water valve immediately. This should help to limit the water damage.
TotalHousehold is a website, founded by Jeff LaCava, designed to aid homeowners in looking for the best home improvement in their communities, according to the release, which goes on, "Its mission is to help homeowners take the stress and frustration out of home repairs and renovations by providing the most comprehensive information on home maintenance, ratings from neighbors, news about home trends and innovations and tips on hiring the right pros."
Derek Carson can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @DerekCarsonBB