A Frozen Water Pipe Burst in My Chicago Home – What Do I Do?

Last Updated on November 17, 2020 by Diana Rodriguez-Zaba

Some years, it seems like Chicago winters are the coldest in the nation. We break records, shovel snow and shiver through historic polar vortexes. Residents across the city take it all in stride, but we never get used to the freezing effect it has on our plumbing.

Are you ready to deal with frozen pipes when they break and flood the house?

This time of year, our teams stay busy helping Chicago residents recover from frozen water pipe that have bursts in their homes and businesses.

We want you to stay safe all winter, so we’ve put together this guide covering everything you need to know about frozen pipes.

Let’s get started.

What Causes Water Pipes to Freeze in Chicago?

frozen pipe in chicago, il home

Our winters can roar in on winds howling across Lake Michigan. They can quietly send overnight temperatures below zero. Freezing precipitation buries us under lake effect snow. Regardless of the conditions, this time of year takes a toll on pipes inside and outside homes and businesses.

The city’s average winter forecast tells the story. By the middle of November, we’re dealing with freezing temperatures in Chicago. By December and through late February, the mercury dips well below 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

In most cases, water pipes freeze when the temperature falls to 20 degrees Fahrenheit. However, a combination of strong winds and high wintertime humidity can cause pipes to freeze and burst at warmer temperatures.

Where Are Frozen Pipes Most Commonly Located?

basement frozen pipe

The same cold weather that freezes basement pipes is also the reason so many Chicago homes are built with this feature. When moisture in the ground freezes, it expands, and that action can damage a concrete slab foundation.

A basement can withstand seasonal expansions and contractions, but it’s difficult to insulate the area against frigid temperatures. Water pipes in attics and garages are also prone to freezing. Frozen pipe bursts in crawl spaces are another problem area residents deal with every winter.

How Do I Know If I Have Frozen Pipes?

When frozen pipes burst and flood the house, it’s obvious right away, but pipes don’t always rupture when they freeze. If you think your pipes are frozen, look for these signs.

  • No water running from an open tap
  • Extremely cold pipe surfaces
  • Frost on pipes under cabinets or in the basement
  • Odd smells around drains and faucets

How Do I Unfreeze My Water Pipes?

thawing frozen pipe chicago

Frozen water pipes will eventually thaw, but a hard freeze here in Chicago can last for several days. When your pipes freeze, water pressure inside the system can exceed 40,000 psi, so you may not want to wait.

Depending on the location of the pipe, you can usually thaw it with a heat lamp or hair dryer. Never use an open flame on frozen pipes. If you see cracks or leaks, call a water damage professional right away.

What Should I Do If a Water Pipe Bursts in My Chicago Home?

frozen pipe burst in chicago condo

The damage from a burst water pipe can quickly spread behind walls, under the floor and even into ceilings on lower floors. You want to take care of the situation as quickly as possible, and you need to stay safe too. It’s best to deal with a burst pipe by following these four steps.

1. Turn Off the Water

Locate the main valve to your water supply, and turn it off. This reduces damage that can occur once the pipes begin to thaw. If you need to contact the city, you can reach Chicago’s Department of Water Management by calling 311.

2. Be Careful Around Appliances

Don’t try to use or unplug appliances in areas where floors are wet. Stay safe by turning off the breakers to affected rooms. In case of extensive flooding, shut down your home’s electricity with the main switch in the breaker box.

3. Call a Water Damage Contractor

Even a small pipe burst can result in hidden problems behind walls and under floors. You can take care of minor leaks, but you can’t always be sure about a frozen pipe’s integrity once it thaws. Call a certified water damage professional like ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba in Chicago, IL who handles burst pipe water damage cleanup.

4. Document the Damage

In most cases, homeowners insurance covers water damage caused by frozen pipes that burst. Call your agent, and explain the situation. Document your losses by taking pictures of wet walls, floors, furniture and personal items.

Your water damage contractor can help by providing written documentation detailing repairs and restoration work. He or she can also help you navigate the insurance claims process.

How Can I Prevent Frozen Pipes?

pipe insulation

Simple DIY insulation strategies keep pipes from freezing, and that can save you from dealing with property damage after a pipe bursts.

Add extra layers of protection by backing up your work with these frozen pipe prevention tips:

  • Keep the thermostat set to 70 degrees Fahrenheit when you’re not home.
  • Let kitchen and bath faucets drip during a hard freeze.
  • Circulate warm air through lower cabinets by leaving them open.
  • Insulate vulnerable attic and basement pipes with heat tape.
  • Make sure weather stripping and seals are solid around windows and doors.
  • Protect exterior spigots with insulated faucet covers.

What Is the Average Cost of Frozen Pipe Repair in Chicago, IL?

The cost of repairing a frozen burst pipe here in Chicago depends on several factors, including pipe location and the extent of damage. In most cases, repair costs range between $200 and $500. However, big jobs can run as much as $1,000 to $2,000.

A full-service water damage professional handles burst pipe repair as well as cleanup and restoration. You can often save money by letting him or her take care of the entire job.

Dealing With Frozen Burst Pipes in Chicago, IL? Turn to ServiceMaster by Zaba

Even the best pipe protection can be undone by frigid winter weather. If it happens to you, call us right away. Our technicians fix burst pipes, clean up the mess and restore your home to its pre-damage condition.

We’re here for you with a comprehensive line of services, and we’re available for emergencies 24/7. When you need Chicago’s most trusted water damage pros, call ServiceMaster by Zaba: 773-647-1985