How to Avoid an Expensive Winter Disaster: Keeping Your Property Safe From Damage this Season

With most of us firmly in the grips of a harsh winter and below-freezing temperatures lasting for weeks on end, it's important that you ensure you protect your property and tenants from one of the biggest (and costliest) potential winter disasters: frozen and burst pipes. Frozen pipes are a real danger and can happen anywhere and in any property once the temperatures drop below freezing, and especially when temperatures go well into arctic territory. Once pipes burst, the resulting water damage can cause hundreds if not thousands of dollars in property damage. This is definitely a case of “an ounce of prevention” being worth “a pound of cure.”

Interestingly, according to plumbing experts quoted on a safety site, it isn't freezing and expanding water that causes pipes to burst but rather the pressure that is exerted by a blockage somewhere in the line. By taking the following steps at your property, you'll hopefully ensure that this winter might be cold but it won't be cold and costly.

Have tenants leave cabinets open & water dripping: Outside walls are most vulnerable to cold and to frozen pipes, so letting warmer interior air circulate will help pipes stay warm. One of the most important tips is for tenants to leave even a small drip in their faucets. This isn't to keep water moving but instead to equalize the pressure that could otherwise build up and result in pressure.

Warn tenants to call immediately if no water comes out of the faucet: If a tenant tries to use a faucet and no water comes out, this is a major warning sign. Be sure tenants know to call the given number for handling any maintenance problems and be sure they also call the after-hours number if this happens after normal business hours.

Insulate pipes when possible: For a relatively inexpensive cost, your property maintenance staff can purchase and install foam sleeves that go over pipes that might otherwise be prone to freezing.

Consult a professional about using “heat tape”: Heat tape is an electrically-powered wrap that can be taped around pipes in danger of freezing. There are many different types and brands with different installation instructions. Be sure to consult a professional if you wish to use heat tape, as improper installation can pose a fire risk.

Do not try to “thaw” a frozen pipe – call a plumber: Trying to thaw a pipe with heat, flame, etc can result in further damage or even a fire risk. so calling a professional is your best bet.

The safety site estimates that the average damage done by a burst pipe is $5,000! By following some basic guidelines and preventive steps, you can hopefully reduce your risk of plumbing and water damage this winter. Educate your staff and tenants about the dangers of frozen pipes as well as how to help you prevent them with basic steps and awareness. With months of freezing temperatures left, it's important to protect your property.

Elizabeth WheelerComment