Prevent Frozen Pipes and if One Breaks

Before you have an emergency, you should know where the main shut-off valve that controls the flow of water into your home or building. If a pipe breaks, you can stop excessive water loss and flooding by turning off the water. The shut-off valve is commonly located in the basement, garage or outdoor by the foundation, often near the front faucet.

If your property does not have a main shut-off valve or it is broken, you should have one installed/repaired by a plumber. There is also a shut-off valve in the meter box that you can use in an emergency. This can be turned clockwise with an adjustable wrench. Since the meter box shut-off valve may not be easy to access, we recommend using the main shut-off valve to turn off water. To close the valve, turn clockwise.

How to turn off water diagram

How to Protect Your Pipes

Insulate Exposed Pipes and Faucets. Outdoor faucets and pipes and pipes in unheated attics, garages, and crawl spaces are most vulnerable to freezing.

Protect Pipes that Freeze. Pipes that have frozen before even when insulated can be wrapped with electric heat tape. In severe cases, you can let one indoor faucet slowly drip warm water when the temperature is below freezing. Do not leave water running in a vacant building.

What to Do if Your Pipes Freeze or Break

Thaw frozen pipes and faucets by wrapping them with rags and pouring hot water over the rags until the water is flowing. After thawing, remove the wet rags and wrap pipes with dry insulation to prevent refreezing.

Never use an open flame or electric device to thaw frozen pipes because you could cause a fire or electric shock. After thawing the pipes, you may discover leaking from a broken pipe.

When a pipe breaks, immediately close the main shut-off valve to stop excessive flooding.

Winterize Vacant Buildings. If you leave your home or business property unheated for extended periods of time, do the following to protect pipes from freezing:

  • Turn off the main shut-off valve.
  • Turn off the water heater.
  • Open indoor and outdoor faucets to drain the pipes.
  • Drain irrigation systems.
  • Flush toilet to drain toilet tanks, but not toilet bowls. 

You are responsible for protecting water pipes from freezing and for repairing broken pipes on your property. If you lose all water service during a freezing period, thaw the pipes as suggested or call a plumber. If you suspect the problem is at the meter, call Bellevue Utilities at 425-452-7840.

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