Helping Your Tenants Deal With Wintertime Water Emergencies

While many people associate the holiday season with joy and cheer, property managers associate the season with winter-related emergency repairs. Of these repairs, frozen and burst pipes are the most common. If faced with a tenant with a frozen or burst pipe, you'll want to know exactly how you can fix the problem to you and your tenant's satisfaction.

Dealing with Frozen Pipes

Dealing with a pipe that's actually frozen seems like a hassle, but you can help your tenant get through this particular emergency with only a few simple steps:

  • Leave the faucet on, but turn off the water at the main valve to ease the full force of the water pressure as the frozen pipe thaws.
  • Next, identify the frozen pipe by feel. In most cases, the frozen section will be extremely cold to the touch.
  • Use a hair dryer to gently thaw the frozen pipe, working your way from the section closest to the open faucet towards the blockage.
  • Once the blockage has completely melted, you can restore water main service to the property.

When responding to a water emergency, always remember that a frozen pipe has the potential to become a burst pipe at any given moment. You'll always want to be prepared to deal with the worst-case scenario when it comes to your property's plumbing system.

Dealing with Burst Pipes

When dealing with a burst pipe, the first step is to always turn off the water at the main valve. This keeps any additional water from pouring into the unit as you attempt to survey and clean up the damage. If the pipe has burst near a fixture, you could shut off water flow by turning off the fixture's cut-off valve. However, shutting off the main is the quickest and most reliable option available.

Next, you'll want to stop the water that's already leaking out of the burst plumbing. You can do this by turning on a sink or bathtub faucet on the first floor or the basement. This willll have the effect of draining the plumbing system until the pipes are empty.

At this point, you should have a wet/dry shop vacuum on hand to vacuum up excess water and a few fans to dry the area afterwards. This should be done as soon as possible to avoid mold growth and further water damage. Particularly severe cases of flooding should be left up to a water damage restoration firm to deal with, as these firms usually have the equipment and the manpower to deal with major flooding. It's a good idea to document the process along the way with photos of the damage and cleanup process.

An Ounce of Prevention

Here are a few things you should encourage your tenants to do when the mercury drops below freezing:

  • Leave the kitchen and bathroom cabinets open. This allows warm air to circulate near any pipes hidden within or behind the cabinets.
  • Let the thermostat run all night to keep up a reasonable amount of warmth. It should be enough to keep pipes from freezing.
  • Allow each faucet to slowly drip or trickle water. This creates a stream of moving water within the pipe that's far more difficult to freeze.
  • Keep garage doors, sliding patio doors and other outside doors closed during severely cold weather.
  • Leave the thermostat set at 50 degrees Fahrenheit whenever the property remains unoccupied for lengthy periods of time.

It's also a good idea to insulate your plumbing from the bitter cold, especially if the pipes are located in an unconditioned crawl space, basement or exterior wall. Vinyl-backed wraparound insulation and heat tape are common insulation solutions in areas with moderate to severe winter climates.

Following these tips can help you and your tenants surmount most water emergencies during the winter. Click here to continue reading more.