Blog by: Ken Mogren, CPCU
One of the spring rituals for home owners in cold weather places like Minnesota and Wisconsin is to turn the water back on to the home’s outside faucets. Most people turn off the water in the fall to avoid potential water damage from a pipe freezing and breaking. What some forget to do in the fall is to let whatever water is still in the pipe drain out by opening the outside faucet.
Water expands when it freezes and if the pipe leading to the outside is left full of water over the winter, temperatures near the outside wall can sometimes get cold enough to freeze the water. It then expands and sometimes breaks the pipe. You don’t notice the problem during the winter. Because you turned off the water source, very little water escapes from the broken pipe. It doesn’t escape until you turn the water back on in the spring. If you realize right away that the pipe is broken, you can quickly turn the water off before much damage is done. You end up with an annoying bill from a plumber and probably learn from the experience to do things differently in the future. That’s bad enough.
But here’s what we see happen all too often: people get caught up in all sorts of outdoor projects on those first nice spring days. They run down to the basement to turn on the water, and then quickly head back outside to rake, fertilize, pull weeds, or whatever. They don’t notice the water escaping into their basements, and sometimes the water ends up running for hours before it gets detected. Then, there are more people to call than just the plumber. As insurance agents, we get several such calls each spring. Insurance almost always covers this, but most folks would agree it’s better to avoid the experience if possible.
Two things to remember to avoid the experience: Make sure the water gets drained in the fall by turning on the outside faucet; when the water gets turned back on in spring, double check the line to the outside right away to make sure it didn’t break over the winter.