The 411 on Frozen Pipes

File "frozen pipes" under the "hassles that can make a giant mess in your apartment" category. What's a renter to do when Old Man Winter decides to wreak havoc on the pipes?

Student renters at the University of Connecticut recently got an introduction when their pipes froze and flooded their apartments. Damage included wet and moldy carpet and drywall failure in the ceilings and walls. In addition, the students experienced the disruption of moving to temporary living quarters during the repair.

What should you do if this happens to you?

Notify your landlord or super the moment you see water damage anywhere in the building. The earlier a leak is detected the less damage it will do and the less likely it will be that repairs will disrupt your life, or worse, destroy your belongings.

Water is second only to fire damage when it comes to potentially ruining your apartment...

Beside the immediate damage to drywall, carpet, or your dishwasher (if it freezes and bursts), water damage can also prime your apartment for mold and mildew. Moldy apartments can trigger long-standing allergic reactions or even make you sick.

Your best defense, besides obtaining renters insurance, is to understand which kinds of apartments are at the greatest risk for frozen pipes and flooding. Older apartments are more likely to have copper pipes instead of PEX, the newer industry standard of plastic water lines. When copper pipes freeze they splinter or break apart, bringing with it a tide of water or quick-to-accumulate drip.

Pipes that are not sufficiently insulated or located near your apartment's exterior are at greatest risk.

Typically the heat from your apartment will warm pipes enough to keep them in good condition. During especially cold temperatures you can help mitigate the risk by running a small drip from every faucet to keep water circulating. Though, in an apartment building this may just waste water if the pipes freeze elsewhere.

After all, a frozen pipe bursting somewhere else in the building can quickly become your problem, too.

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