There’s frozen, and then there’s busted. Both have been keeping area plumbers busy during the cold snap and those plumbers expect to remain busy as it warms.
“If it’s froze right now, the biggest concern is if it’s broke, and we’re not going to know that until it has thawed,” said Jim Morrison, owner of Morrison’s Plumbing in Belleville.
Morrison’s plumbers use heat guns and specialty machines to warm pipes. He warned homeowners against using open flames to thaw pipes.
The Belleville company has been busy since Saturday, he said, and the office was open until 9:30 p.m. New Year’s Day.
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“I expect to be busy all week, and then after the thaw we’ll get a rush” as people discover breaks in pipes as temperatures warm, he said.
Lisa Ferguson, operations manager at Embrich Plumbing in Maryville, suggested opening cabinet doors under sinks.
“If they are not frozen, yay!” she said on Tuesday morning. “If they’re concerned pipes are going to be frozen ... then turn up the heat in the house and open up the doors that are connected to pipes.”
If they’re concerned pipes are going to be frozen ... then turn up the heat in the house and open up the (cabinet) doors that are connected to pipes.
Lisa Ferguson, Embrich Plumbing, Maryville
Ferguson said many kitchen sinks are susceptible to the cold because the sinks are under windows and against an exterior wall.
“What really freaks people out is, once pipes are frozen a plumber can’t actually do anything,” she said. Embrich Plumbing suggests the homeowner thaw the pipes, using a space heater for instance, before calling the plumber.
“If pipes are frozen don’t freak out, just try and warm them up,” she said. “Pipes can freeze without them busting.”
Morrison said some situations are more likely to end in frozen and broken pipes than others. Mobile homes are susceptible as are homes with crawl spaces, but he said people know that and take precautions such as using heat tape on exposed pipes. Homes with drafts are also susceptible, because it is often the cold wind causing problems, he said, and homeowners would do well to limit those drafts.
Most homes in Southern Illinois are built to withstand the bitterly cold winters, Morrison said, but one home with a frozen line didn’t have a chance.
“We have a guy on a job right now with a frozen line going into the master bathroom toilet,” he said. The bathroom extends above the ground and beyond the home’s foundation, so the line is in the bathroom’s floor and is essentially on an exterior wall.
“It’s 100 percent a design flaw when they build the house,” he said. “That just goes to show how cold it is, it’s the first time it’s happened. In that situation, there was nothing they could do.”