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Prevention and Cleanup: Water Damage From Winter Storms and Cracked Pipes

Any time the temperature drops below 32 degrees, there is the potential risk of frozen pipes, particularly outdoor pipes or indoor pipes located in poorly insulated areas such as attics, crawl spaces and basements. "Water damage can occur if frozen and cracked indoor pipes are not caught quickly. This is a potential nightmare, particularly as people travel for holiday vacations,” says Jeff Bishop, Technical Advisor for The Clean Trust. [Note: Ad links featured on this page are not affiliated with The Clean Trust and should not be considered a recommendation or endorsement by The Clean Trust.]


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To Prevent Frozen Pipes
  • Wrap electrical heating tape on exterior pipes. Remove garden hoses from faucets.
  • Cover pipes with foam rubber or fiberglass insulation and secure it with tape.
  • Let cold and hot water faucets drip. Running water helps prevent freezing pipes and reduces pressure build up in them.
  • Inside the home, open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to promote warm air circulation around plumbing.
  • Leave the thermostat at the same temperature both day and night, at least 55°F.
To Thaw Frozen Pipes
  • Locate the problem pipe, if possible, and open a faucet. As the pipe thaws, running water aids the melting process.
  • Apply heat to the frozen section using a hand-held hair dryer or portable electric space heater. Do not use a blow torch as it could cause the pipe to explode. Do not use a propane or kerosene heater as these are hazardous for indoor use.
  • If you are unable to locate or access the frozen pipe area, call a licensed plumber.
  • If all else fails and you experience a burst pipe and resulting water damage, shut off the main water valve and contact a professional water damage restoration company with trained technicians and extraction, drying and dehumidifying equipment. Call The Clean Trust hotline at (800) 835-4624, or go to for a list of certified restorers in your area.
Clean Up

When water damage results from cracked pipes, The Clean Trust offers these tips for clean-up:

  • Shut off the main water valve, if practical, and call a plumber to fix the leak.
  • Call a Clean Trust-certified professional water restoration firm immediately for mitigation services, as required by your insurance policy. Certified Firms have the knowledge, experience and equipment to locate water wherever it goes, remove the excess, and dry your structure to industry standards. Call The Clean Trust hotline at (800) 835-4624, or go to for a list of certified restorers in your area.
  • Mop up standing water on flooring surfaces to prevent slip/fall hazards. If the burst pipe is overhead, drain ceiling cavities by punching “weep” holes.
  • Prevent mold growth. Although it takes a few days to appear, mold thrives on wood, paper, particle board or even household soil, when stagnant air, moisture, and temperatures between 68 and 86 degrees are present. 
  • Wet clothing usually is salvageable. A 10-minute wash cycle in detergent and hot water should sanitize washable clothing and many household fabrics.
  • Dry out before you rebuild. Professional water restorers have a variety of instruments to determine when a building is dry, to prevent on-going microbial growth. Drying should not stop until wood or drywall moisture content (MC) falls below 16 percent MC. Normal MC is around 10 percent in most areas of the country.
  • Beware of scam artists targeting storm victims. The Clean Trust requires its registrants to have liability insurance and business licenses, and to adhere to a code of ethics. When approached by any company for water restoration services, ask to see the technician’s official The Clean Trust wallet card that confirms his or her training and certification. You may also call The Clean Trust hotline (800) 835-4624 to confirm the certification of a company that has contacted you.


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Prevention and Cleanup: Water Damage From Winter Storms and Cracked Pipes:  Created on December 28th, 2009.  Last Modified on October 19th, 2011


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About The Clean Trust

The Clean Trust

The Clean Trust, formerly known as The Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC), is an ANSI-accredited standards setting body for the flooring inspection, floor covering and specialized fabric cleaning and disaster restoration industries. Organized in 1972, The Clean Trust currently represents more than 5,700 Certified Firms and 54,000 Certified Technicians in 22 countries. The Clean Trust, with participation from the entire industry, sets standards for inspection, cleaning and disaster restoration. The Clean Trust does not own schools, employ instructors, produce training materials, or promote specific product brands, cleaning methods or systems. It approves schools and instructors that meet the criteria established by The Clean Trust. The Clean Trust also serves as a consumer referral source for Certified Firms and Inspectors. Visit



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