Prevent frozen pipes, or how to thaw them if you're seeing this too late

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As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is surely worth a pound of cure. Especially when it means hiring a plumber.

As the mercury dips, many homeowners worry that their pipes will freeze. Plumber Bill Blancke with Roto-Roote described to KARE the costly mess that homeowners don't want to deal with in the cold. "We see pipes that get a hard freeze, split the pipe and when it thaws out it floods the home," he said.

KARE's tip-filled story to avoid the problem recommends simply opening cupboard doors, especially in older homes that may lack insulation. Pipes under sinks can get very cold and simply allowing heat from the room to circulate around them can keep them gurgling. Pipes near windows or exterior walls can be insulated, but Blancke warns against insulating them all the way around. If the cold is on just one side of the pipe, put insulation between the cold and the pipe and let the other side of the pipe be exposed to heat from the room.

WCCO also offered timely advice to viewers, suggesting that water taps at the highest and lowest point in the home be left slightly open so they drip continuously, which will prevent freezing. The story also recommends setting the thermostat a little higher than normal. Blancke advised never turning a residential thermostat below 55 degrees, even when a homeowner will be away for an extended time period.

If you're reading this after your pipes have frozen, there's different advice. Blancke said it's important to know to shut the water off to your house if a pipe does split. He said shut off valves are on the water meter, typically located by the hot water heater or on the side of the basement closest to the heat.

WCCO's warned against ever using a blow torch to thaw frozen pipes. Instead, homeowners are advised to use a hair dryer.

It's not just homeowners who are suffering in the cold. The Business Journal reports that the 8th St. Grill in downtown Minneapolis was partially closed due to a weekend water leak. The dining room was open while crews cleaned water and ceiling tiles from the bar area Saturday morning.

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