As the weather grows colder and temperatures drop to unbearable degrees, landlords worry about frozen pipes in their rental property. Having frozen pipes can lead them to burst, costing you thousands of dollars in damages. Not to mention, your tenants may be displaced.
Frozen pipes may be more common than you think. According to the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes, almost a quarter-million homes and offices have had a room damaged by frozen pipes.
To avoid frozen pipes in your rental from bursting and causing damage you can do a few things. In this article, you will learn what to do if your pipes freeze and how you can prevent it from happening in the future.
How to Identify Frozen Pipes
The first thing you should know about frozen pipes in your rental property is how to identify them. The first telltale sign is the lack of running water when you turn on a faucet or flush a toilet. If no water comes out and the temperatures are below freezing, it’s time to search for a frozen pipe.
Another sign that you have frozen pipes is when you can see frost around a pipe. Lastly, if you notice a pipe is bulging and bigger than normal, it’s probably frozen.
If you can’t identify frozen pipes and your main water valve is on, you should start looking for leaks. This could be another reason that water is not flowing from the faucet.
Shut the Water Off
Immediately after you have identified that you have frozen pipes in your rental property, you should shut the main water valve off. This will stop the water from flowing.
Once you’ve turned off the water, open your faucets. If possible, open the faucets directly connected to the frozen pipe. This will reduce the pressure in the pipes and keep them from bursting.
Thawing the Frozen Pipe
Unfortunately, dealing with frozen pipes isn’t as easy as just opening your faucets and waiting for the weather to warm up again. Now that you’ve identified where the frozen pipe is, it’s time to thaw it out.
There are a couple of ways that you can thaw out a frozen pipe yourself.
Use a Hairdryer
You probably have a hairdryer lying around your house, or your tenants have one handy. Grab an extension cord and turn the hairdryer on full blast near the frozen part of the pipe. This may take a while, but it can be very effective.
Remember to move the hairdryer up and down the frozen pipe to heat it evenly. This will melt the ice faster.
Use a Space Heater
If you have a space heater available, this is a more convenient solution. You can simply plug the space heater in, turn it on, and wait for the frozen pipe to thaw.
However, you must be careful when using a space heater. Make sure there is nothing flammable in the area, and keep an eye on it.
Use Heating Cables
A quick trip to your local hardware store and you can buy heating cables. These cables look like a long extension cord. You’ll wrap the cables around your frozen pipe and plug them in.
This is a good solution if you don’t feel comfortable using a space heater and don’t want to stand there using a hairdryer.
How Not to Thaw Your Frozen Pipes
Whatever you do to thaw out your frozen pipes, never ever put an open flame to them. This is an extremely dangerous fire hazard that could leave you with some serious problems.
This includes blowtorches, wood or charcoal stoves, and kerosene or propane heaters. Save yourself the trouble and the danger, and stick to electrical solutions.
Thawing Frozen Pipes Behind a Wall
Sometimes the frozen pipes in your rental will be behind a wall. This can cause quite an issue when trying to thaw them out. You can’t use a hairdryer or heating cables to fix this one.
The best thing to do if your frozen pipes are behind a wall is to crank up your heat. Warm up the house and place space heaters near the wall with the frozen pipes. This will hopefully thaw out the pipes.
You may be concerned with your electric or gas bill when blasting the heat, but it’s a minimal price to pay to avoid a burst pipe.
Call a Professional
Most times, you can take care of a frozen pipe in your rental property yourself. Other times you may want to call in a professional. Plumbers can quickly identify and thaw a frozen pipe thanks to their specialty equipment.
A property management company can also do this for you. With a reliable network of partners and professionals, you know you’re getting the best solution. In fact, 45.6% of landlords hire property management companies because they want professionals to maintain their property.
Prevent Your Pipes from Freezing
There are some things you can do to prevent your pipes from freezing in the winter. Being a landlord with a rental property in a cold environment can be nerve-wracking sometimes. So, you educate your tenants about how to prevent frozen pipes.
Before your tenants move in or just as winter rolls around, let them know these tips to help you prevent frozen pipes in your rental property.
Keep the Temperature Controlled
If your tenants are leaving for long periods of time, ask them to keep the thermostat to at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit. This will keep the property warm enough to prevent your pipes from freezing.
Keep Faucets Dripping During Cold Weather
When the temperatures drop very low, ask your tenants to let the faucets drip. With the water constantly moving through the pipes, it will be harder for it to freeze. If you or your tenants are worried about the water bill going up, remember that it’s worth it to keep your pipes from bursting.
A solution you can offer is to include the water bill in the rent. Or you can also cover some of the water bill when you ask your tenants to let the faucets drip.
Keep Garage Doors Closed
Having the garage door closed will help keep the warm air in your property and the cold air out. By keeping the warmth inside, your pipes will be less likely to freeze.
It may sound silly, but during the coldest weather, open all of the kitchen and bathroom cabinets. This will allow the air to flow and circulate around pipes in your property. Therefore, keeping them warm.
A Landlord’s Greatest Fear
One of the worst things that can happen is to have the pipes freeze in your rental property that is hours away from you. If you cannot get to the property due to travel hazards like snowstorms or other reasons, you feel helpless and worried.
You may be able to rely on your tenants to take care of it for you. However, not all tenants are able or willing to search for a frozen pipe and spend time thawing it out.
So, what do you do in a situation like this?
Get Help Managing Your Property
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