Solve Frozen Water Line Pipes in Philadelphia

Plan for the 100-year storm!

It took me a few years and 7 properties with frozen pipes to learn an important lesson as a Property Manager here in Philadelphia.

I learned that weather changes from year to year. Seems obvious; but yet it still escaped me!

One winter was particularly cold; but what caught my property management company off of its game was the duration of the cold - the weather was below freezing, for longer than ever breaking all records (and pipes). States like South Carolina saw record snow fall and unprepared properties saw frozen water lines.

The end result was 7 properties with frozen pipes, We had tenants who couldn't work their kitchen sinks, and two tenants who couldn't shower.

Fortunately, we were able to quickly thaw the pipes to get quickly thaw our tenants. The only burst pipe we had happened to my own vacant duplex mid-renovation. The damage? Over $7,000!

Lesson learned!

Here are some hard earned tips from a Philadelphia Property Manager

  1. Turn the heat up. Pipes freeze because their cold. Turn up the thermostat, try using a hairdryer on the frozen pipes or use space heaters at the source. Our property management company keeps a stock of space hears for just such an emergency.
  2. Pipes can freeze in different spots. Duration of cold is far more likely the cause of a property's pipes freezing than the temperature itself.
  3. Open cupboards. More often than not poorly insulated pipes are the cause. Sometimes, these pipes can be insulated against the heat of the house. Cupboards tend to block the heat and opening them can be the solution. If possible, and safe, use a space heater near the open cupboard.
  4. Often pipes freeze behind a wall. This makes it even harder to fix and even more expensive to fix if the pipes burst. Unlike exposed pipes, pipes that freeze behind a wall are difficult to treat. Pipes in exterior walls and be under insulated from the outside and over insulated from the inside heat. Plumbing lines often run behind unheated cupboards that actually block the heat. Try cranking the heat to warm the room. But it might be time to call a plumber.
  5. A plumber will likely be inexpensive to thaw your pipes - expensive if they burst! Most plumbers have a thaw machine that shoots electricity through the pipe that will melt the frozen blockage in mere minutes. Make sure the plumber you are considering hiring has one.
  6. Running the water prevents pipes from freezing. Just a slight trickle of water is all it takes. If a property is at risk of freezing or if the pipes have frozen, turn the faucets on slightly.

Frozen pipes are a landlord hassle and can turn into considerably expensive ones. A good property manager knows what properties are at risk, can respond to the tenant repair instantly, with a fast solution to prevent a burst and unhappy tenant.


Joe White

Joe White is a Philadelphia Property Manager and Real Estate Broker. He is the owner of Grow Property Management and has been involved in the management, sales and purchases of Philadelphia area rental investment properties since 2008. He is an author and works as a real estate investment consultant and construction manager.

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