Frozen Pipes, Office Flooded: What Now?
Winter flooding in an office can be catastrophic, especially if the water leak goes undetected for a significant amount of time. The following overview can help you understand what causes frozen pipes, how to keep your plumbing from freezing, and what to do if the worst has happened and your office is flooded.
What Causes Frozen Pipes to Burst?
In the great majority of cases, it’s not the ice within frozen pipes that causes them to burst. It is possible for pipes to freeze and be clogged with ice, then thaw out with no damage or other ill effects. Frozen pipes burst because of the pressure of the water that builds up behind the ice plug that blocks the pipes.
How to Prevent Frozen Pipes
Even a small crack in a pipe can allow hundreds of gallons of water to flood your office. Larger cracks and holes could have the equivalent effect of turning your faucets to full and letting the water flow into your office area. Frozen pipes are usually avoidable with some maintenance and precautions.
- Use heat tapes: Wrap pipes with heat tapes, lengths of coated wire that generate enough warmth to prevent freezing. Heat tapes are especially useful in areas where there’s little to no HVAC-based heating and in uninsulated areas of your building, such as crawl spaces.
- Insulate pipes: Put insulation around pipes to help keep out the cold. Use pre-made pipe sheaths or wrap pipes with standard blanket-style insulation.
- Keep indoor temperatures at a beneficial level: It’s tempting to turn indoor temperatures down at night or when the office is going to be closed for a holiday, but reducing thermostat settings too much can contribute to freezing in the pipes. Keep indoor temperatures at 62 degrees or higher. Open under-sink cabinets to allow more indoor heat to get into those areas.
- Provide a small water flow: If temperatures are supposed to plunge significantly, turn on the cold water faucets in your bathrooms and sinks to allow a thin stream of water to run. This provides circulation inside the pipes and helps prevent freezing.
What to Do If Frozen Pipes Have Burst
- Shut off water: Immediately turn off any running water if you can reach the cut-off valve, or have your plumbing professional shut the water off.
- Remove standing water: Drain away any standing water or use a specialized wet/dry vacuum to remove it. This will also remove any sources of growth for mold, bacteria, microbes and other hazards. Be particularly careful if sewer water was part of the flood.
- Dry out the area: Use a wet/dry vacuum or carpet extractor to remove as much water from carpeting as possible. Set up fans and direct airflow at wet walls, rugs, carpeting and other items to speed drying. Run a dehumidifier to pull excess moisture out of the air. Take precautions to prevent moisture-related issues.
- Remove wet items: Salvage what you can of the office property, but be prepared to remove and discard the majority of wet items. If dried out in time and before mold growth begins, carpets, insulation, furniture and wallboard may be salvageable within 24 to 48 hours. Otherwise, these items should be discarded to prevent mold and microbial growth. Fiberboard items, insulation and HVAC filters should be discarded.
- Wash and disinfect the area: The walls, floors, shelves, closets, cabinets, HVAC equipment and contents exposed to floodwater should be washed and disinfected as thoroughly as possible to prevent contamination and possible health issues. Carefully apply cleaning materials and disinfectants to avoid problems, such as overexposure, creation of chlorine gas or triggering of respiratory troubles.
Our goal is to help educate our customers about Plumbing, HVACR, Fire Protection and Alarm Systems in Mechanical, Commercial and Residential settings. For more information on preventing frozen pipes and what to do if burst pipes cause a flood in your office or commercial facility, and to view projects we’ve worked on, visit our website!