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Home Inspector

Prevent Frozen Pipe Damage
February 2009

Hose bibs, hose bibs, hose bibs. What the heck is a hose bib?

In the home inspector vernacular, a "hose bib" is an exterior water spigot that is found on residential or commercial properties. Within the past several days as the temperatures have begun to drop to the single digits, I can't tell you how many homes my company has inspected where not only is the water on at the hose bib but at the same time the hose is still attached. I may be a little bit early for my monthly newsletter, but I have to get the word out.

The danger is that the water freezes inside the hose first and passes back through the plumbing connection to the building, forcing the water supplies to crack. Water will only be dispelled once the ice begins to thaw, allowing for potential damage to the property. The proper way to reduce this risk is to shut the water off inside the building and then reopen the hose bib after removing the hose.

I spoke to an agent just a few days ago, where another realtor was showing the property. Upon leaving the dwelling he lowered the thermostat to 50 degrees and closed the door to a powder room that was in an unheated portion of the dwelling. This allowed the water supply to the toilet to crack, and a constant rush of water entered into the crawlspace, which was dirt filled. I would ask that when you are showing a property; do not lower the thermostat below 60 degrees. The risks are too high.

The last issue that comes to mind is clothes washer supply lines. For vacant properties be sure the water valves are turned off or if a single lever shut off is installed that it is pushed to the "off" position. I'm sure you have all heard that story.

When the weather begins to change and especially during the colder months, these are just a few of the items that can be easily corrected and will alleviate the potential of thousands of dollars in damage.

Jack H. Milne, Jr. President, Tri-County Inspection Co.