AUSTIN (KXAN) — Warmer temperatures are on the way, and as pipes begin to thaw out, plumbers at Barrera Plumbing Services are advising homeowners to pay close attention.
Plumbers worry some homeowners may have a broken or cracked pipe without knowing it as many lines remain frozen Thursday morning. And, the guidance in Austin has changed as it experiences low water pressure and is under a boil water notice. Austin Mayor Steve Adler addressed the new guidance on whether or not to drip faucets, which can help prevent burst pipes when the temperatures are below freezing.
“We’re at one of those places where there are no great answers,” Adler said. “It’s just the best answer at any point in time. What we’re being told right now is that the temperatures have risen sufficiently that the risks associated with not dripping is not as great as the risks associated with actually dripping it impacting the consumption levels of water in the city. So if you want to wrap your pipes, open up the cupboards under the sink so the warmer air can get to the pipes.”
KXAN meteorologists report the area may get just above freezing for part of the day, but will be back below freezing overnight. See the latest forecast here.
At present, BPS owner Victor Barrera said technicians are doing their best to make house calls. Barrera said crews are responding to calls of burst pipes across the area causing water to gush out of walls, ceilings and flood floors. They’ve also encountered many frozen lines causing some pipes to crack.
Barrera said for homeowners who notice water start to pour out of their homes they should turn off the main water valve if they haven’t done so already and call a professional. However, he said homeowners will have to be patient.
“With as much demand is there going to be in Austin there’s probably going to be very limited plumbers in the area,” he explained. “Everybody’s going to be very, very busy.”
The owners of Hi Hat Public House on East Sixth Street are in shock after a busted pipe flooded the small pub.
“I’ve already sent out a notice saying that we’re not going to be open and we don’t know when we’re going to reopen and asking for prayers and thanking people for thinking of us,” said Steve Schrader, the pub’s co-owner. “I’ve gotten calls from regulars and calls from people wishing us well and what can we do to help and whatever and I don’t have an answer for any of that I’m still sad right now. It’s real.”
He and his wife Rena Schrader opened the pub located in the Villas on Sixth Apartment Homes building eight years ago.
“We’re a neighborhood bar in east Austin,” he said. “People think of us as Cheers when they come in because everyone knows everybody.”
Schrader said the pub lost power early Monday morning, that night he got a call from a building neighbor to let him know “there’s a river running down the stairs and it’s going into your place.”
At the time, Schrader and his wife were staying at a hotel after their home also lost power. He said because of the weather and unsafe road conditions, they could not get to the restaurant to shut off their water valve.
Tuesday, he was able to stop by the pub to asses the damage.
“There was water coming out of the ceiling like it was raining through the sheetrock and three inches of water on the floor,” Schrader said. “I went back (Wednesday) and the water on the floor was gone. (There were) icicles inside and outside the building. Very surreal, very apocalyptic. It was not a good feeling.”
For now, Schrader said he had to tell his 10 employees to go back on unemployment for the second time in less than a year. The first he said was on March 17 of last year when they had to close as the start of the pandemic shut down the city. Nonetheless, Schrader tries to remain hopeful.
“I feel bad, I feel sad, I’m still in shock and I don’t know how we’re all… I’m sure we will all get through this because we‘re the eastside and we’re cool and we do what we have to do, but I don’t know how it’s going to happen right now it’s not clear in my head,” he explained.
Steps you can take to address broken pipes
Broken pipes can flood homes and cause thousands of dollars in damage. The Texas Department of Insurance shared these tips:
- Stop the water flow or leak as soon as you can. Know how to turn the water off at the main valve or at the valves under your sinks and near appliances.
- Remove pools of water and start drying the area to prevent more damage and mold growth. Dry the area as soon as you can. Mold can start growing within a day after a leak.
- Move wet items to a dry room or an area with fresh air. If you move items outside, put them somewhere secure to protect them from theft.
- Pull up wet carpets and rugs.
- If you can’t remove the water and dry the area yourself, use a service. Search the internet or check a phone book for businesses that specialize in cleaning up after water damage. Your agent also can help you find a service.
Once you have addressed the initial leak and protected your property, TDI reports homeowners should follow these tips:
- File an insurance claim. Most companies have deadlines for you to file a claim. You usually must report water damage that was hidden from view within days after you first see it. Call your agent or your company’s claims number to start your claim. The claims number should be in your policy.
- Make a list of damaged property. If possible, take pictures or videos of the damage before making any repairs. Don’t throw away any damaged items until your adjuster has seen them.
- Make only temporary repairs to protect house and belongings. For instance, put a tarp on your roof or cover a broken window. Don’t make permanent repairs. The insurance company might deny your claim if you make permanent repairs before it sees the damage.
- Keep receipts. To get full payment, you must prove to the insurance company that you replaced destroyed items. Receipts will help you do this. Also, keep receipts for any materials you bought to make repairs.
- Try to be there when the insurance company’s adjuster looks at your damage. If your home is damaged, have your contractor with you. Your contractor can talk to the adjuster about estimates and other issues.
- If the damage was caused by an appliance leak, have an inspector certify that the damage and appliance were fixed. The inspector will give you a certificate verifying the repairs. If you don’t get the certificate, the company might charge you more or refuse to renew your policy.
Should you turn your water off?
“The fact is water freezes at 32°. That’s a fact,” Radiant Plumbing & Air Conditioning’s Preston Nichols said. “So what can you do to eliminate that,” he asked and said, “people should eliminate the risk by getting the water out of the lines or keep the water moving, that’s a fact.”
He added if people keep the water in their pipes moving it will eliminate the risk of it freezing. However, if pipes are frozen, he said, “the fact is it’s going to the likely break so now we want to get the water turned off and do damage control.”
When should I turn my water back on?
At present, many pipes across Central Texas are frozen. KXAN wanted to know what would happen when the water pressure is restored to frozen pipes currently without water pressure: Would the pressurized water flowing through the frozen line in your system have an impact?
What should I do with my water heater tank?
It depends, Nichols said homeowners should do what makes them comfortable but there is no threat if left as is during this time whether you have water.
To drip or not to drip? Neither expert says
When it comes to keeping your pipes from freezing, plumbing experts with Barrera Plumbing Services and Radiant Plumbing & Air Conditioning said it’s more effective to have a stream going. Nichols said it should be about a “pencil-sized” stream. He said a simple drip does not prevent freezing.