Frozen pipes? Experts offer tips for thawing out, avoiding a plumbing disaster

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GRANDVIEW, Mo. — Bitter cold temperatures have led to hundreds, if not thousands, of frozen pipes around the metro the past few days.

That’s left plenty of people without water for now. But as we begin to thaw out from the deep freeze, the worst may not be over. While the goal for anyone with frozen pipes is to be able to get the water back on, be careful what you wish for. 

When staff showed up at Allied Concrete in Grandview on Tuesday morning, there was no water in the office. 

“We knew that we might have some issues because it’s been so long with the cold weather. We can’t heat the warehouse as well as we have,” said Pete Furey, owner of Allied Concrete.

But once they started thawing out those frozen pipes, soon there was water leaking to the floor. Three pipes burst in one area, so they called a plumber and might have to hold off on bringing some people back to work after the cold snap as scheduled Wednesday. 

“Once you turn the water on, you may find another one. That’s what we ran into here,” said Nick Frank with Morgan Miller Plumbing. 

“It’s gut wrenching because it’s not what you want to see when you’ve been off for two weeks trying to survive,” Furey said.

Morgan Miller Plumbing said they’ve been inundated with calls during the deep freeze. They’re responding to broken water lines and helping customers diagnose frozen ones over the phone. 

“We kind of start with how many faucets, how many bathrooms? Is it your kitchen sink? Is it just your downstairs?” said Frank, describing the questions he asks customers. 

Once they figure out where the line may be frozen, customers are advised to put heat on it, either by opening the cabinets and cranking the furnace or, better yet, with a heater or hair dryer. Have your faucets on to reduce pressure and so you know when the line thaws.

But once that water starts running, there may be more pressing tasks than that long-awaited shower or cup of tea. 

“When those pipes burst, you’ll be able to tell pretty soon where the issue is, whether it’s a puddle in that room, a puddle underneath of it. You look up at the sheetrock if the plumbing is in the ceiling, and you’ll be able to see those water spots,” Frank said.

At that point, you are going to need a plumber and to stop the water from doing any more damage before the plumber gets there.

You can usually locate your shutoff valve in the basement or crawl space, most often along the front wall of your home. Each faucet or toilet has an individual shutoff valve, and if all else fails, you should be able to find a shutoff at your water meter. 

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