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Busted pipes plague thawing region
As area warms, costly repairs linger behind
Lowe’s plumbing specialist Neal Landers, left, shows customer Matthew James how to use a piece of Pex pipe in conjunction with a new fitting Tuesday afternoon. James is in the process of repairing pipes that froze and began to leak.

The frigid temperatures may be behind us this week, but many are now dealing with the damage ice has left behind.

Area plumbers have been busy mending frozen pipes during the past week.

“We’ve been working pretty much 24/7 on calls,” said Jimmy Herrin, owner of Herrin Plumbing Co.

When freezing temperatures meet exposed pipes, the ice that forms inside causes the pipes to crack. When it warms up, the broken pipes lead to leaks.

Herrin said kitchen sinks, washing machines and outdoor spigots are most commonly connected to pipes that are closer to the elements.

“Usually when the pipes freeze they’re on the outside wall,” Herrin said.

He said there are a number of ways to keep pipes warm.

“If the pipes are on the outside walls and they’re in a cabinet, you need to open up the cabinet doors where the room temperature can go into the walls and keep the walls a little bit warmer to keep the pipe from freezing,” Herrin said. “In extreme circumstances, you need to let (faucets) drip overnight.”

Hardware stores also carry products that prevent pipes from freezing.

Lowe’s hardware employee Lamar Cooper said he has sold lots of insulation sleeves, electrical tape and cups for outdoor spigots during the past two weeks.

“We’re about out of the pipe insulation now,” he said.

Pipes in vacant buildings often are more prone to freezing because there is no heat.

Tricia Ruth, vice president of asset management for the Norton Agency, said the company is very cautious during the winter.

“We want to make sure that the heat is on and at least set to 50 (degrees) if it’s vacant. As long as it’s set on 50 and you open up all the cabinet doors, like the kitchen sinks and bathroom sinks, everything should be fine; it shouldn’t freeze,” Ruth said. “Any laundry rooms that might have some piping that’s close to an outside wall, those freeze up sooner than later because they don’t have insulation in them. We try to leave a door open to that laundry room so heat will get in there or even put a space heater if we need to.”

Teresa Kinsey, agency claims manager for Turner, Wood & Smith Insurance, said homeowners insurance does cover leaks caused by frozen pipes.

“We’ve had several claims of that nature,” Kinsey said. “When our customers call us, we tell them to go ahead and contract a water extraction company to go ahead and get the drying process started and take steps to prevent further damage.”