Frozen hoses and busted Pipes: Plumbing 101

By Joe Dillard

Do you like surprises? I don’t; especially like the time I went to the basement one cold fall day and saw enough water on the utility room floor to start a fish farm.

My first thought was that the drain was plugged. Then I realized that room didn’t have a drain. So, the search for the source of the water began. Looking up, I saw a wet ceiling tile and soon discovered that water was leaking from a water pipe connected to an outside water spigot.

Then, the “Ah Ha” moment arrived. I had left the garden hose attached to the outdoor spigot and the trapped water had frozen and burst the fitting on the connection which is actually inside of the house.

Ever since then, I have sent the annual fall email to family and friends about unhooking their outside hoses. This season I decided to share the alert with you, too. This unsolicited advice (I am the King of Unsolicited Advice!) is meant to save you time, frustration and money (all plumbers should stop reading this now).

According to Pat Guinan, University Extension/State Climatologist, in and around Columbia, the first really big pipe busting frost typically can come any time after mid-October. And, many times, lulled by pleasant fall temperatures, we forget to unhook our outside hose which leads to water in the basement or in the crawl space under the house. Best bet, is to good outside and unhook them now.

What happens is that water left in the hose freezes and forces the fitting inside the house to swell and eventually burst. That is not a good thing for you, but a plumber’s delight.

Outside spigots are designed to drain all the water away from these fittings when you shut off the spigot. However, if you don’t unhook the hose the water is trapped in the pipe leading into the house even though there might not be any water in the hose itself. That water becomes ice and expands just enough to burst the soldered fittings releasing water trapped behind the shutoff valve which now invades your basement or crawl spaced. This immediately necessitates a call to the plumber.

In summary, please consider my unsolicited advice, unless you want to start a fish farm in your basement, and unhook your outside hoses soon.