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‘Lines freezing left and right’

Cornelius Lewis, owner of Korco Plumbing Services, repairs a water pipe that had frozen, thawed and started to leak above a bathroom in a foothills home earlier this week. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

A cold snap that has sent temperatures dipping into the single digits has kept plumbers busy chasing after frozen, broken and leaking water pipes.

Cornelius Lewis of Korco Plumbing Services said he’s received about 30% more calls for such problems.

“The cold temperature freezes water inside a pipe, and as the water freezes, it expands, causing hairline cracks in the pipe,” Lewis said. “Then, as the ice begins to thaw, water leaks from those hairline cracks.”

One of his cold snap emergency calls was at an older home in the foothills, where an uninsulated copper water pipe in the uninsulated space above a bathroom had frozen, split, thawed and leaked. The drywall ceiling was soaked, and it collapsed.

Such repairs can easily cost from $500 to $1,500 or more, depending on how much work needs to be done and how easy it is to access the problem pipe, Lewis said. He noted that the cost of water damage inside the home is separate and may be covered by homeowner insurance.

Mike Ford, the residential plumbing manager at Albuquerque Plumbing, Heating and Cooling, said he’s had about a 40% increase in calls related to frozen and leaking pipes.

“We’ve got lines freezing left and right, and broken lines that are popping open as it warms up a little bit,” he said. “It’s been very busy, and we expect it to get even busier as temperatures continue to warm and everything starts to thaw out.”

The largest volume of calls has been from owners of mobile homes and older homes with older water pipes, he said.

Ford has also been repairing leaking irrigation pipes and water supply lines that feed into homes.

Both Ford and Lewis said they have also been repairing burst outdoor spigots, particularly where a hose was still connected.

“If the outside faucet had already been leaking, it’s pretty much a given that it’s going to freeze up,” Ford said.

Both men suggest that outdoor spigots be covered with an insulating Styrofoam faucet cover.

In homes that have poorly insulated walls, they recommend leaving cabinet doors open to allow more heat from indoors to warm the walls.

And when homeowners know that the outdoor temperatures will be below freezing, they suggest leaving one or two faucets in the home trickling, so that the water in the pipes keeps moving “and doesn’t have an opportunity to settle and freeze,” Lewis said.

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