Tag Archives: home repairs

Piping Up

As with each New Year, 2014 brought hopes for good fortune, opportunity for new experiences…and a polar vortex.

In New England we are accustomed to freezing temperatures,Frozen drainpipe but the crippling, Arctic-like air that swept through the region last week reminded us of the perils of home ownership that may arise in such conditions.  Of these perils, pipe bursts are among the most common and recently have become widespread throughout Massachusetts. Last week 35 people in Lawrence were evacuated from their homes when a pipe burst inside their building. The same issue affected Brigham and Women’s Hospital, causing patients to be moved to other hospitals.

How can you prevent frozen pipes from ruining your New Year? Here’s some useful knowledge and a few helpful tips.

How does cold air cause a pipe to burst?

Before addressing prevention and treatment of burst pipes, it is important to understand why pipes are prone to bursting in cold temperatures. Contrary to popular belief, the ice that forms and expands within the pipe is not the culprit; the burst actually results from the built up pressure between the ice blockage and the closed faucet.

Preventative measures

Now that winter is upon us, here are some suggestions on how to prevent the bursting of pipes in your home:

  1. Wrap your pipes with insulation. Be generous with the wrapping. The more insulated the pipe, the less likely it is to freeze.
  2. Any cracks or holes in the walls or foundation of your house should be sealed in order to minimize pipes’ exposure to cold air.
  3. For plumbing that is hard to reach, open kitchen and bathroom cabinets in order to increase warm air flow to the pipes.
  4. Let the water drip from the faucet in order to alleviate built up pressure in the pipe.
  5. If you are going to be away during a cold
  6. spell, make sure your heat is turned no lower than 55°F.

If you suspect a pipe is frozen, pipe up!
If you turn on a faucet and little or no water comes out, call a plumber. Turn off the main water supply but remember to keep the faucet open. If you are keen on thawing the pipe yourself, apply a small heat source (hairdryer, towels soaked in hot water, etc.) starting at the faucet end. Remember to keep the faucet open. Under no circumstances should you attempt thawing the pipe with an open flame. Exposure to fire is harmful to the pipe.

For additional information on frozen pipe treatment:

 

Headquartered in Boston, Bunker Hill Insurance provides home insurance to customers in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Bunker Hill is a member of The Plymouth Rock Group of Companies, which together write and manage over $1 billion in homeowners and auto insurance throughout the northeast.

 

5 Tips for Hiring a Contractor for Your Next Home or Remodeling Project

Finding the perfect contractor for your next home improvement project or remodel can feel like the quest to find your ideal soul mate:

  • Are they good listeners?
  • Will they show up when they say they will?
  • Are they committed to you?
  • Do your friends and family members like them?

The Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection are great resources for home improvement tips.  For more information, check out their websites.

Some meaningful things pulled from these sources that you should consider are:

Male Contractor in Hard Hat Discussing Plans with Woman in Room.Licensed to drill. Is your contractor licensed with the state and do they have the skills to do the job? Are they bonded and insured? Always ask for your contractor’s license number before you sign any contracts. Massachusetts law requires contractors to list their license number on any advertising, so if you don’t see a number, don’t bother contacting them.

But, just because a contractor is registered with the state doesn’t mean that they’ll do a good job. Which leads us to…

Get those references. It may be time-consuming, but it’s worth doing some legwork before you start any project on your home—after all, it’s one of your biggest (non-living) investments. Use your neighborhood email listserv, if you have one, or just ask  neighbors about their experience if you see them getting work done.  You can also use the web to research contractors through sites such as Angie’s List and the Better Business Bureau.

Get it in writing. According to consumer advocate Mitch Lipka, any job over $1,000 should be in writing and detail the job duration, start and anticipated end dates, overall job specs, and payment schedule. It’s typical to pay about one-third to one-half of the total price up front, unless you negotiate (and sign!) a different payment agreement with the contractor.

Once you do hire someone, make sure they understand your expectations about working in your home, such as your preferred (and practical) start and finish times and whether you’re okay with them using your bathroom.

Trust your instincts. Finding your contractor-soul mate involves careful research, but it also requires you to look within for those subjective impressions that should guide your decision-making process.. If, after looking at a list of closely qualified contractor candidates, you’re still not sure whether or not to hire someone, ask yourself: How does this person make me feel? Am I comfortable with them — and the idea of them working in my home? Do I trust them?

Headquartered in Boston, Bunker Hill Insurance provides home insurance to customers in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Bunker Hill is a member of The Plymouth Rock Group of Companies, which together write and manage over $1 billion in homeowners and auto insurance throughout the northeast.