Serving: King County, Snohomish County, & Pierce County

Ice dams and frozen pipes

When February blows freezing temperatures, the two most common risks to your home are ice dams and frozen pipes. Keep gutters and downspouts clear of debris, snow, and ice so melting roof snow can flow.

Ice dams occur when heavy snow buildup melts during the day, then refreezes as temperatures drop overnight. After several days of this cycle, the melted water and ice work up under the shingles, entering the attic and damaging ceilings, walls, and contents. To help prevent dams from forming:

  • Keep gutters and downspouts clear of debris, snow, and ice so melting roof snow can flow.
  • Keep snow on your roof to a minimum. Roof rakes let you stand on the ground to safely pull the snow off the roof.
  • Evaluate attic insulation and ventilation. Good airflow is essential to a cool, dry attic.

Frozen water pipes can cause extensive home damage. If you think turning the heat down while you’re away or on vacation will save you money, think again. If your water pipes freeze and burst, it could cause thousands of dollars in damage.

Home owners can take some simple preventive measures:

  • Locate and insulate pipes susceptible to freezing — typically near outer walls, in crawl spaces, or in the attic.
  • Wrap pipes with UL-approved heat tape and seal air leaks.
  • Disconnect garden hoses. Shut off and drain water from pipes leading to outside faucets.
  • Drain and shut off the water supply (except indoor sprinkler systems) if you expect to be away for several days.
  • Have someone check regularly to ensure the heat is still on and things are OK.
  • Make sure you and your family know how to shut off the water to your home.

If you do discover frozen pipes:

  • Never try to thaw a pipe with an open flame or torch.
  • If pipes burst, stop the flow of water as soon as possible to minimize damage.
  • Be mindful of the risk of electric shock in and around standing water.
  • Call a plumber and contact your insurance agent right away.