Skip to main content

Call Us Today 301-791-7910

Bowers Blog

Preventing Frozen Pipes in Your Business

If you live in snow country, you’ve no doubt heard horror stories about frozen pipes. You might even have a cautionary tale of your own to tell.

Those deep-winter cold snaps can send temperatures plummeting, and homes with exposed or inadequately protected plumbing can see their pipes frozen — or worse, bursting — under the pressure of expanding ice.

But your home isn’t the only building vulnerable to a sudden freeze.

Commercial properties are susceptible to the same sorts of dramatic changes in temperature as residential properties. In fact, they can be even more vulnerable since business facilities are often unoccupied during off-hours and weekends. When it comes to burst pipes, what starts as an undetected leak on a cold Saturday night can become a facility-wide glacier by Monday morning.

No Way To Do Business

Fixing broken pipes is not cheap, but water damage to your business from burst pipes can be considerable. Affected business’s annual damage totals can run into the hundreds of millions of dollars — including replacement costs not only of wrecked plumbing, but of furniture, decor, equipment and infrastructure.

It also can be time consuming just to schedule repairs, and depending on the extent of the damage, profitable operations could be impaired until they’re completed. Remember: an arctic chill that takes out your plumbing will probably clobber other businesses too. You could get stuck waiting a while for a commercial contractor.

So, the best solution is to understand why and where pipes freeze and burst, then put a plan in place to prevent it.

Why Pipes Freeze

The pipes that bring water to your taps are pressurized, meaning that they’re usually full of water at all times. At normal temperatures — anywhere between 32 and 212 degrees Fahrenheit — the water in the pipe remains liquid, and both the water and the pipes behave as expected.

Below 32 degrees, however, the water that fills your pipes starts to freeze.

By contrast to most chemical compounds, water expands as it freezes. When that expansion occurs in a confined area such as a pipe, it eventually creates a blockage, and any water that has not yet frozen is pushed away from the expanding ice. This can ultimately produce excessive pressure that the pipe itself (or even one of the fittings along its length) is not structurally able to withstand, resulting in a crack or tear.

At that point, you’re dealing with a burst pipe.

Where Pipes Freeze

Are there trouble spots where pipes are more likely to burst? Yes: the most vulnerable pipes are those that are not contained within the heated interior of a building.

As a rule of thumb, any area that is warm enough for a person to comfortably work in without winter clothing would be relatively safe from pipe bursts — assuming a normal, uninterrupted supply of workplace heat. Conversely, any area that would be too cold for a person to sit in for an extended period would require additional measures to protect pipes from freezing.

Some obvious areas where this could be a problem include attics, basements, wall voids and crawl spaces, but in thinly insulated zones, even enclosures like cabinets or vanities can get cold enough to allow a pipe to freeze.

Preventing Frozen Pipes

By making sure that pipes are adequately heated and monitored for problems, you can greatly reduce the likelihood of catastrophic damage from a burst pipe. Government organizations like have some handy prevention tips. Here are a few pointers that can help reduce your risk.


The primary precaution you can take to keep your pipes from freezing is straightforward: make sure they’re heated.

While that may sound a bit obvious, consider that much of a building’s plumbing is not directly exposed to the same comfortable atmosphere as its human inhabitants. Snoop around your facility — opening cabinets, drawers, crawl-space doors — and feel the surfaces inside those hidden spaces. If they’re cold, so are your pipes.

Consider leaving those doors and drawers open, and if necessary, apply heat tape to the pipes. While that’s a small drag on your electric bill, it’s way less expensive than repairing a busted pipe. (Pro-tip: if you use heat tape without a thermostat or timed shut-off, you can set an October calendar reminder to plug the tape in and another in April to unplug it.)


Bare pipes are vulnerable pipes. Wherever possible, make sure there’s a layer of insulation between the pipes and outer walls, and insulate the pipes themselves with fiberglass or polyethylene pipe insulation available at most well-stocked hardware or home repair stores.

If you’re using heat tape along with pipe insulation, make sure the tape is wrapped around the pipe before fitting the insulation.


While most of your facility’s outer shell (roof, siding, etc.) is adequate to keep the elements at bay, it may not be as good at keeping out the wind.

While you’re inspecting your facility, be on the lookout for gaps or holes that allow outside air into spaces through which your piping runs. Heat transfers (escapes) much more rapidly in moving air, so plugging those holes can make a substantial difference in how quickly your pipes freeze.


For fuller protection against burst pipes, consider installing a monitoring system. These devices can alert you when the temperature in sensitive areas drops into the danger zone. They can also warn you of open windows or doors that might accelerate a freeze.

Don’t Let Your Business Be Left Out in The Cold

How to Prevent Frozen Pipes and Avoid Costly Damage and Downtime

(NOTE: This sentence doesn’t need to go in this location – it could be a callout anywhere in the graphic) Burst pipes are the leading cause of property damage resulting from winter weather.*

When the temperature goes down, the risk of burst pipes goes up.

As water freezes, it slowly expands, building up internal pressure that can cause pipes to burst.

Water from burst pipes can damage property, inventory, equipment, office furniture and more…

…and can also lead to business disruption and lost income.

Before it gets cold

  1. Drain pipes that are likely to freeze, and turn off sprinkler and irrigation systems.
  2. Seal gaps and holes that allow outside air into spaces where pipes and supply lines run.
  3. Insulate between pipes and outer walls.
  4. Protect pipes with heat tape, then wrap with fiberglass or polyethylene pipe insulation.

When the temps dip

  1. Set the thermostat to at least 55°.
  2. Check hidden spaces like cabinets, drawers & crawl spaces. If they’re cold, so are the pipes. Leave those doors and drawers open to circulate air. 
  3. Install low-temperature alarms to alert you when the air approaches the freezing point.
  4. Allow faucets to drip cold water to help prevent it from freezing.

If the pipes freeze

  • Cautiously apply heat with a hair dryer or hot-water bottle. Never use an open flame or space heater
  • Call a plumber when in doubt or you can’t thaw the pipes

Make sure your pipes (and everything else) are covered

Even with the best precautions in place, there’s still a chance that pipes could freeze and burst causing serious damage. Protect your business with commercial property insurance from Erie Insurance. Contact Bowers Insurance to learn more. 

*2020 Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) Commercial Series

by Erie Insuranc

Ready for an Instant Auto Quote that meets your needs? Let's Get Started