Common Misconceptions About Frozen Pipes

October 28, 2015

Common Misconceptions About Frozen Pipes

Bursting water pipes are a major concern in cold weather climates. Most frequently, frozen pipes occur in unheated areas such as the attic, an unfinished basement, a crawl space or a garage. But why do frozen pipes burst? It turns out there are a number of common misconceptions surrounding exactly when, where and why this type of loss occurs.

Misconception: Ice expansion causes a pipe to burst.

Many believe that frozen pipes burst because of ice expanding in place. Instead, it has to do with pressure. When water freezes within the pipe, the water molecules expand, forming a blockage of ice which prevents unfrozen water from passing through. The pipe areas upstream of the blockage aren't typically in danger of bursting because the pressure isn't great enough. In this case, the water isn't blocked, and can always retreat back to its source. Rather, the resulting pressure from unfrozen water between the ice and closed faucet is the primary cause of ruptures in frozen pipes. 

Misconception: Pipes burst when they are in the process of freezing.

It’s important to note that pipes do not always burst once they’re frozen or while in the process of freezing. It’s the process of thawing that can be the biggest problem. After a pipe has frozen and begins to thaw, the pressure caused by the water that begins to rush through the pipe threatens to cause a pipe to burst.

Misconception: Pipes in homes in northern climates are more vulnerable to freezing.

Generally, houses in northern climates are built with pipes located on the inside of the building insulation. This usually protects them from subfreezing weather, although extreme cold, insufficient insulation and holes that allow cold air to come into contact with pipes can still lead to freezing and bursting. In southern climates, however, pipes are more likely to be located in unprotected areas outside of the building insulation, and homeowners tend to be less aware of freezing problems, which may occur only once or twice a season.


The best way to protect against frozen pipes and the resulting water damage – which can be utterly devastating – is by having a whole-house leak detection system installed. A PURE Member Advocate® can assist you in determining which system is right for your home and can even schedule the installation for you. Call 888-813-PURE (7873) or email memberadvocate@pureinsurance.com to get started.