Metro plumbing experts offer tips to prevent frozen pipes and big bills this winter

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. – Plumber Michael Smith knows he has just begun what will be yet another busy winter in the metro.

“The last couple of weeks, we've been working around the clock,” he said.

Smith has been in and out of dozens of homes and crawl spaces, searching for one of the most common victims of winter weather: water pipes.

“What you're looking for here is just -- whenever the water lines freeze, they expand. So you're going to see multiple splits,” Smith said. “There can be one or two breaks. There can be 50 breaks. It depends on how insulated your homes are, how insulated the water lines are.”

Nathan Burns, of Polestar Plumbing, said they see a nearly 40 percent  increase in calls for winter-related pipe damage.

“Extremely busy this time of year, especially no heats, water lines. I mean we run 24/7 service," Burns said. "Our guys have been out late into the evenings, taking all of these calls. The guys know that we're working late, not going to be home at the same time. Just it is what it is this time of the year. It's busy for us.”

But these experts said if home-owners take a little extra time to check their home, they can save themselves a lot of money.

“To get the pipes unthawed and repaired you could be looking at anywhere from a few hundred bucks to over $1,000, and beyond that, all of the water damage you could cause, too," Burns said. "Go around and check where your water lines are at. If they are under a cabinet, maybe see how cold it is underneath there, maybe crack a door. You can always crack a water line, so you do have a little bit of water flowing through there. That does help."

It’s help that Smith said will be needed through February.

“We try to get as many people up and going as we can," he said. "We don't want to leave any people without water and heat.”

KC Water also issued a few helpful tips for the extreme cold:

  • Disconnect and drain outdoor hoses.
  • Insulate pipes or faucets in unheated areas.
  • Keep kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors open so that warm air can circulate.
  • Seal off access doors, air vents and cracks.
  • Locate the master shut-off valve, so water can quickly be shut-off if a leak occurs.
  • Leave a pencil-lead-thin stream of water flowing during freezing weather.

In the instance that a water pipe breaks and the shut-off valve doesn’t work, call KC Water immediately to request an emergency shut-off. KC Water crews are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at 816-513-1313 or 311.