Portland winters can be cold or they can be mild. Most often, they’re a little of both. When Oregon experiences a cold snap, with many days of frigid weather, you might have problems with freezing pipes.

If you didn’t prepare your plumbing for winter, you could be in for a nasty surprise. Pipes can burst during the cold, causing tens of thousands of dollars in water damage to your home. Read about how to prepare indoor plumbing and outdoor plumbing for winter.

What’s your best defense against the havoc caused by frozen pipes? Two things: 1) Keep our number (503-208-2812) in your contacts list, and 2) Educate yourself on what to do in a plumbing emergency.

Be prepared for a plumbing disaster by knowing where to find your home’s water main shutoff valve. Practice turning it off and on.

Prevention is always the best plan. We’ll get to that later, but first, let’s take a look at what to do if you’re in trouble. If you suspect that a pipe has already frozen, your best bet is to call Meticulous immediately. We have extensive experience troubleshooting burst pipes and home floods and can help remedy your situation before damage occurs.

Safety Note: You may be tempted to try to defrost your pipe yourself using an open flame. DO NOT DO THIS! Open flames in enclosed spaces are dangerous. They are also inefficient at defrosting pipes.

Rather, you may want to try a hair dryer. Open your faucet and apply heat to the pipe gradually, beginning near the faucet end and moving slowly toward the ice block. However, do not attempt while standing in water, as working with electrical items in these conditions can cause electrocution.

What to Do if You Think Your Pipe Might Burst

Here’s what to do if your pipes burst. Prepare yourself ahead of time because during an emergency, you’ll need to spring into action.

  • Find and close your water main shutoff valve immediately. It is often located near your water meter. It can be hard to find the shutoff valve in some of Portland’s older homes. Read our detailed post about finding and turning off your plumbing’s various shutoff valves. Be sure your faucets remain open until one of our expert plumbers has had a chance to repair the damage.
  • If any area in your home or basement has flooded, check immediately for live electrical outlets or cords that may be submerged before stepping into the water. Unsure? Wait for your Meticulous Plumber to arrive, or call the Public Works Department for further information. Never step into a flooded area with electricals.

Why Do Frozen Pipes Burst?

Ice itself does not damage your plumbing. What causes issues is the expansion that occurs inside the pipe as the frozen water increases water pressure between itself and the closed faucet. Pipes often burst in areas that have not frozen for this reason, because pressure has built up in other sections. Too much pressure can cause a break in your pipe and a rush of icy water into your home or crawl space.

Prevention 101

What can you do to prevent winter floods due to burst pipes? Insulation is your best friend. You can purchase pipe insulation at any Portland area hardware store. Most types are made from foam and have a slit down the side so that they can be fitted over the pipe, then secured with duct or electrical tape. Pipe insulation is like putting a coat on your pipes; it keeps temperatures warm enough to prevent freezing.

More freezing weather could be ahead this winter. Prepping your pipes for the worst-case scenario is an excellent idea. If you have questions or think you may have a burst pipe, we are happy to help in any way we can. Contact us for help with winter plumbing problems.

Updated Jan. 5, 2017. Originally posted Feb. 1, 2014.

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