MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — As the weather gets colder, it will soon be the season for frozen pipes — and when pipes freeze and start to leak, you can be dealing with a big mess.

It happened to WCCO’s Frank Vascellaro and Amelia Santaniello.

A pipe burst at their cabin, slowly leaking into the floors and walls for months before they discovered it. By then, mold and water damage totaled the cabin.

They learned the hard way, how to prevent something like this from happening.

The worst of it happens when you’re away. Minnesotans who have a weekend cabin, or leave the state during winter, or just go away for a few days on vacation know that the destructive force of water is nothing to mess with.

Water Damage contractor Mark Mason sees problems caused by water just about every day. He was recently at the home of Heather Davis after she heard a wave of water gush into her basement during a heavy rainstorm.

“We immediately started moving stuff, and my husband went outside to see where it was coming from,” she said.

Mason said that despite the scare, her basement is salvageable.

“The typical rule is within three days — if you can get it dry within three days,” he said. “A lot of times you’ll have a slow leak in a pipe and you won’t notice it, or a pipe can actually break while you’re gone. Time is not your friend, so if you can get on it and try and get it dry within 72 hours before any bacteria starts growing, you’re good.”

And as the weather gets colder, Mason says business will start to really pick up.

“Once freezing starts the phone rings off the hook,” he said.

Some people turn off their water for winter. Frank and Amelia said they sometimes visit the cabin when it’s cold, so they left it on.

After their cabin was destroyed, they learned about a way to avoid water damage — an home water-monitoring system. It can easily shut off all the water in the house, and if it senses the water is running for too long, a valve shuts it off and sends an alert to your smartphone.

A wide range of water detection devices are now available, ranging in price from under $100 up to a couple thousand dollars.

Troy Olsen works for Dean’s Plumbing based in Maple Grove.

“Really, water is the most damaging thing in your house you can have,” he said. “We all have insurance, but that’s the last line of defense. That’s something that we don’t want to have to rely on, and a simple $100 fix can sure save you some headaches.”

The alert is the key to stopping damage and getting it cleaned up quickly. Frank and Amelia even got a discount from our insurance company for installing that device.

Water damage caused by rain or flooding isn’t typically covered by homeowner insurance unless you have extra coverage. On the other hand, properly maintained pipes that freeze and break are usually covered.


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