Here's what to do if your frozen pipes burst as they thaw

USA TODAY NETWORK

After a bitterly cold stretch with temperatures in the single digits or below zero, Columbia's forecast high rises into the mid-30s by Saturday and remains above freezing next week.

That will feel good, but as the weather warms it might also cause some of those frozen pipes to burst — and that can cause expensive damage to property.

Sudden and unexpected water damage to your house from bursting pipes is generally covered by your homeowners insurance policy, but now would be a good time to check with your insurance company to find out what is and isn't covered.

If living in an apartment, call the apartment manager or emergency maintenance number and check your lease and insurance, if you have it, to determine your coverage.

If a pipe bursts

The pipe may not actually burst, gushing water. The pressure can cause tiny leaks at a joint or small crack that may also simply drip water. Inspect frozen pipes for smaller leaks.

Winter weather:Will the frigid temperatures lead to rolling blackouts in Columbia? Not very likely, officials say

If a pipe bursts, immediately turn off the water at the main shutoff valve, which is usually at the water meter or where the main line enters the house. A basement is a common location for this valve. Even if you don't have problems, now is a good time to locate your main shutoff valve.

Unless you are handy, call a licensed plumber if the pipe bursts, you are unable to locate the frozen area, the frozen area is not accessible or if you cannot thaw the pipe.

If pipes are frozen

If you believe your pipes are frozen, you can thaw them out yourself.

If you turn on a faucet and only a trickle comes out, you may have a frozen pipe.

Heat the frozen section of the pipe with an electric heating pad, hair dryer, towels soaked in hot water or portable space heater, making sure to keep away from flammable materials. Do not use a heat source with an open flame as the high heat can damage the pipes or start a fire.

Winter weather:Columbia cold weather doesn't stop fishermen or sledders

Once the water flows at regular pressure, check all other faucets to see whether you have additional frozen pipes.

The most common areas for frozen pipes are found along exterior walls or unheated areas.

Prevent pipes from freezing

If you plan to be away during cold weather, leave the heat no lower than 55 degrees in your home.

Keep garage doors closed, especially if there are water supply lines in the garage.

Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing, especially if your sinks are on an exterior wall. If you have small children, be sure to remove any harmful cleaners and household chemicals.

Let cold water drip from a faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe even at a trickle helps prevent pipes from freezing.

Apply heat tape to the pipe or foam pipe insulation that surrounds the pipe.

For the long term, add insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces.