Frozen pipes, broken heat causing headaches in homes

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by Lane Kimble

MILWAUKEE -- As the temperature drops, the odds of having a big mess on your hands goes way up.
 

At a condo on Milwaukee's east side, it looks like a renovation project.  Walls and ceilings are torn apart. But the owners were actually hoping to sell the unit... until Monday morning.

"One small, little burst pipe will create tens of thousands of dollars worth of damage," Cornerstone Plumbing Service Manager Rob Widowski said.

Widowski got the call for this damaged unit.  The icy weather burst just a six- inch section of pipe on the second floor, causing tens of thousands in damage.  He calls this is an extreme example, but simple steps could prevent it from happening to you.

"You gotta make sure, even under kitchen sinks and other areas, that there isn't a draft  coming in where those pipes can freeze up and potentially burst," Widowski said.

Cornerstone handled about a half dozen pipe calls this morning, which is a lot for this early in  winter.  Widowski says garden hoses left hooked up or not turning off the valve inside are the  most common culprits.

Over in Delafield, Iron Fireman's Josh Crouch spent Monday dealing with broken heating systems.

"We're finding a lot of systems that are clogged," Crouch said.  He says keeping your pipes thawed and maintaining your furnace should go hand in  hand.  It's just a matter of staying proactive.

"It's better to have it checked out before something goes really bad because the repair might be a lot cheaper than having to buy a whole new unit," Crouch said.

Crouch says if you don't replace your filter and get annual service, manufacturers can void your warranty.

Back in Milwaukee, Widowski surveyed the damage.  It's a repair that took his crew just minutes to fix.

"Once it gets to the point where it's spraying, well, there's nothing we can do but fix it," Widowski said.

The real danger for burst pipes actually comes as temperatures warm up.  Widowski tells CBS-58 the freeze doesn't cause the burst, just expansion.  The explosion happens as the pipe thaws.   If you notice a slow running pipe, call a plumber and they can thaw it out before you have a mess.

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