An unrelenting winter storm has brought subzero temperatures and multiple power outages to most Texas households this week and many are dealing with frozen pipes. Despite precautions taken by homeowners to insulate and wrap pipes and keep them dripping to avoid freezing, these efforts don’t actually work if the electricity and/or water is shut off to a home due to power outages. This has been the case for so many people in the North Texas area, including our household.
Homes in the northern U.S. are constructed with this type of frigid weather in mind. We live in Texas. This is the South. And we are more likely to own a home with pipes that are not well insulated. In the South, it is common for water pipes to be located in the attic where temperatures are much colder. Also, more at risk for freezing are pipes in basements (less common in TX), garages, crawlspaces, kitchens and other rooms with outside walls such as bathrooms. Many people have water heaters installed in garages which are not heated. Older houses, unless updated, are more susceptible to pipes freezing because the insulation wasn’t as efficient when they were built as the products are now. Also, pipes in old homes were sometimes installed and routed to places in ways building codes no longer allow.
Water expands as it freezes, which puts pressure on the metal or plastic pipes which may cause them to break. If you discover you have a broken pipe, turn off the water at the main shutoff valve, usually found at the water meter or where the main line enters your house. Check all other faucets in your home to see whether you have additional frozen pipes because if one pipe freezes, others may freeze, too.
If you do have damage to your home from frozen pipes, contact your local agent. Your homeowner’s insurance policy should cover any sudden, unforeseen and unexpected water damage due to a plumbing malfunction or broken pipe. However, most home insurance policies exclude damage to your home that occurred gradually, such as a slow, leaky or rusty pipe, as well as damage due to regional flooding. Secondly, be prepared for a few things regarding swimming pools. Pool and pipe equipment are not covered by most Texas HO policies. If you have equipment breakdown coverage, remember that it does not apply to a winter storm malfunction or breakdown, only a mechanical breakdown. There’s a difference. Many home warranties will cover pool pipe/equipment but only up to a certain amount. For many, this Winter of 2021 will most likely be a very costly one for homeowners and pool owners.