Home insurance

Why your garden hose might flood your home

Wednesday, December 10, 2014by  Jon Osterberg

man fixing pipeOur latest PEMCO Poll tells me that nearly one-fourth of Northwest residents risk enduring a big hassle come spring.

When asked if they cover their outdoor faucets for the winter with a foam bib, 23% of 1,200 Washington and Oregon people said “rarely” or “never.”

Also, one in ten said they never bother to disconnect their outdoor hoses in the fall.

Perhaps you wonder, so what? Well, if there’s a hard freeze this winter, the water inside the pipe feeding an outdoor faucet could freeze. That causes expansion, which cracks the pipe.

Which causes a huge mess and hassle.

You might not notice anything’s wrong until spring, the first time you go to use your faucet. That’s what happened to me years ago when I was still learning about being a homeowner.

outdoor fawcet with hose connected I never disconnected the hose on our front-yard faucet. Fall came, and with it came the Arctic blast of late November 1985. Seattle endured sub-freezing temperatures for a week.

Spring rolled around, and in April I decided to wash our car. I turned on the outdoor faucet and heard the sound of running water. Except, no water came out the hose. Hmmm. Odd.

From inside the house I heard my wife yell, “There’s water coming out of the wall!”

I turned off the faucet and ran downstairs. Sure enough, water streamed out from the base of a wall. We later determined the unprotected outdoor faucet, with water trapped inside, had frozen solid five months earlier and split the pipe. The stem of the spigot – which seals off water – extended several inches into the house, inside a wall, and that’s where it split. Water didn’t gush out until I opened the faucet, pressurizing the spigot.

section of drywall cut out exposing pipe I cut out a large section of drywall to access the pipe and spigot. A plumber replaced them, and then I had to replace the drywall, tape it, mud it, sand it, prime it, and paint the wall.

PEMCO’s poll shows there are many simple precautions people can take to prepare for winter. They’re fast, simple steps, yet many don’t do them. Things like check your car’s antifreeze. Pack blankets in the car. Check tree trunks and large branches for cracks. Clean creosote out of your chimney. Read our news release to learn what else you might have overlooked.

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