Every winter, freezing and bursting pipes cost American home owners hundreds of thousands of dollars in repair costs. When homeowners understand why their pipes can freeze, they can better prevent the problem from occurring.
There are two schools of thought regarding what causes pipes to freeze. Some believe freezing water inside a pipe will expand and cause the pipe to burst. Meanwhile, others argue ice forms in the pipe and while it grows, it builds up water pressure between the blockage and the closed faucet. When this happens, little to no ice will form on the outside of the pipe. No matter what causes your pipes to freeze, adequate protection through insulation or heat along the entire length of the pipe will prevent them from bursting.
The place you live can make your pipes more susceptible to bursting. In the northeast, houses tend to be more prepared for cold weather that causes plumbing problems. When temperatures drop outside, the chill can easily seep into your home through cracks, leaks and holes. The places where cable or telephone lines come into the house are the first spots to look for cold air entering your home. Remember, older homes tend to have less insulation than newer homes, so you may have to check your pipes and make sure they are safe from bursting.
Pipes in the south are especially vulnerable to unusually cold weather. Homes in this region were not designed with freezing temperatures in mind. In many cases, pipes are located outside the home or in poorly insulated areas of the home, such as an attic, unfinished basement or crawl space. These pipes are even more susceptible to the elements if there are cracks and openings in the walls to allow colder temperatures inside.