Water Pipe Bursts in Plaquemine during freezing weather

Plumbers ready for frozen pipe repairs as Capital Area thaws out, prepares for next deep freeze

BATON ROUGE, La. – The big chill across South Louisiana may be coming to an end, but the work is just beginning for Capital Area plumbers, who are already getting crushed with calls.

Jude Barker, a licensed plumber and owner of Barker Brothers Plumbing Works, says they have already received dozens of calls from homeowners with frozen pipes. Barker expects that number to increase as things begin to thaw.

“Last night was colder than the night before, Barker said. “So, a lot more people woke up to take a shower or brush their teeth and realized they don’t have any water because their pipes are frozen, especially if they didn’t drip their lines.”

Unfortunately, there is nothing a plumber can do until the pipes have thawed.

“We’ve gotten probably 50 calls saying ‘We don’t have any water’ and we tell them, ‘We can’t get to you. If you don’t have any water, if you don’t see anything leaking, then there’s nothing we can do,'” said Barker. “We would have to thaw the pipes out first and that would take forever on 50 different homes.”

Prevention and preparation is key during extreme cold

Freezing temperatures are not only wreaking havoc on homeowners, but local plumbers told UWK they have also received calls from a school, hospital and even a chemical plant.

While businesses tend to fare much better in colder weather, according to Brian Young, a licensed plumber whose company focuses mostly on commercial and industrial jobs. 

“Backflows are the big problem because they’re outside in the elements and if they’re not properly protected it will cause a problem,” said Young, owner of Young’s Plumbing Company.

Backflows must be properly insulated and wrapped or they can freeze above ground, crack or burst and a business or school will be stuck without water until it can be repaired, cautioned Young.

Prevention is key when it comes to protecting pipes in extreme cold weather since the cost to repair broken pipes and plumbing could cost hundreds, thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars.

“My biggest tip is drip your water because the water bill will always be cheaper than the plumbing bill,” Barker advises.

Get prepared and protect your pipes during the next freeze:

  • Insulate exposed pipes: Use pipe insulation sleeves or foam wrap to protect any piping running through unheated areas like attics, crawl spaces or exterior walls.
  • Open cabinet doors: Allow warm air to circulate around vulnerable pipes under sinks and inside of cabinets in the kitchen and bathroom, especially rooms with an exterior-facing wall. 
  • Let faucets drip water: Run a slow trickle of hot water, less than the size of a pencil to prevent your pipes from freezing. It takes cold water to heat water, which allows the entire system to run. Choose a faucet furthest away from the water heater so it runs the entire loop of your system.
  • Run your dishwasher: Stay up as late as you can during a freeze and run your dishwasher. A typical dishwasher cycle is about two hours and will keep the water moving before you go to sleep.
  • Seal air leaks around windows and doors: Drafts can send chills to your pipes, so weatherstrip and caulk areas where cold air can seep in. 
  • Drain and disconnect outdoor hoses: Disconnect and drain hoses from spigots to prevent ice buildup from cracking the faucet.
  • Know your main water shutoff valve: Locate it and ensure it is easily accessible in case you need to shut off the water quickly.

Additional winter weather tips:

  • Set your thermostat above freezing: Even if you’re away, maintaining a minimum temperature inside of your home can help prevent pipes from freezing.
  • Keep interior doors open: Allow warm air to circulate throughout the house to reach vulnerable areas like bathrooms and laundry rooms, especially those without vents. 
  • Heat up crawl spaces and attics: Use space heaters or heat lamps, but keep them far from combustible materials.
  • Wrap exposed pipes: For extra protection, make sure exposed pipes are properly insulated with foam wrap, heating tape or heating cable, especially pipes prone to freezing. 

If you suspect you have a frozen pipe, licensed plumbers recommend the following: 

  • Shut off the water supply at the main valve immediately. 
  • Apply heat to the frozen section: Use a hair dryer, heat gun, warm towels, or hot water bottles. Never use any heating device with open flames! 
  • Once thawed, turn the water back on slowly and monitor for leaks.

If you plan to be away from home during a freeze, Barker recommends homeowners do not drip water and instead shut their water off from the main water supply or meter, then drain all of your faucets to make sure all the water comes out and it doesn’t freeze inside of your pipes while you’re gone.

What do you do if your pipes burst?

How do you clean up after your pipes freeze or burst in your house or business? Depending on how extensive the damage is, you might need to call other professionals for help.

A restoration company can help you assess the damage and clean up the water, dry out your walls and ensure there is no mold growing,” according to Lori Garlington with Klean King Air Duct and Restoration based in Monroe.

“A lot of people who have vinyl plank floors will need a dehumidifier to remove excess water from under the floors and dry out sheetrock,” said Garlington. “That’s where a specialist comes into play to test your walls and take readings to see how wet they are.”

Home restoration companies can help with water damage to flooring, carpets, mold removal and mold remediation.

With more cold weather expected in the Baton Rouge area this weekend, experts say we are fortunate this latest cold snap was not as bad as it has been in previous years. They told UWK it is always better to be safe than sorry and hope people are better prepared for future freezes.

“We have 18 professionals ready to go and these guys would rather be at home protecting their property as well,” said Barker. 

“We don’t look at this as an opportunity to make money, fingers crossed, hopefully nothing is too bad, because we have enough to deal with already.” 

Download the Unfiltered with Kiran app from the Apple App Store and Google Play to stay updated on the latest news across the Capital area. 

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