published Friday, January 31st, 2014

Early January was lesson in pipe maintenance in Chattanooga area

  • photo
    Owner Nick Bowers surveys damage in the Pickle Barrel after sprinkler pipes broke when they thawed, causing a partial ceiling collapse.
    Photo by Angela Lewis.
    enlarge photo

The consensus among plumbers and hardware store managers is that this week was not as bad on pipes as the beginning of the month was.

"We've been selling more ice melt and heaters than anything this week," said Chris Gadd, assistant manager at Ace Hardware in East Brainerd.

Echo that for the Ace over on Highway 58. And the one on Broad Street.

But that doesn't mean things have been easier than they were at the beginning of the month.

In fact, low temperatures in the single digits this week have been just as frigid with even more wind and snow compared to earlier in the month.

According to National Weather Service data, Chattanooga hasn't seen a daily minimum temperature above freezing since Jan. 15. Two times in that span, Chattanooga saw lows in the single digits, matching or exceeding the low temperatures reached in the first week in January.

Derrick Mattson, owner of Riverside Plumbing, speculated Thursday that maybe frozen and burst pipes aren't as prevalent during this cold snap because most people took notice earlier this month.

"People learned a lesson last time," he said. "I think there's been a lot more people, a lot more news stories, paper stories, on what to do to keep your pipes from freezing."

Mattson said early January's polar vortex served him up the busiest day he remembers since moving to Chattanooga more than two years ago.

"I've never had just one big onslaught of frozen pipes in one day," said Mattson.

And he said all the blame can't be pinned on folks who didn't get around to insulating their pipes.

"The houses around here, I think, are not really built in preparation of 5-degree nights," he said.

Nonetheless, there are things which can prevent a major pipe disaster -- like a burst in the attic when no one is home, which can happen and ruin a home.

Mattson suggests the obvious points: Insulate pipes and keep hot and cold water running. Get up in the middle of the night and flush the toilets -- they can lead to freezing, too.

And for customers who can afford it, Mattson suggests thinking about installing PEX piping, which is flexible and resistant to bursting because it can expand and contract.

Contact staff writer Alex Green at or 423-757-6480.

about Alex Green...

Alex Green joined the Times Free Press staff full-time in January 2014 after completing the paper's six-month, general assignment reporter internship. Alex grew up in Dayton, Tenn., which is also where he studied journalism at Bryan College. He graduated from Rhea County High School in 2008. During college, Alex covered the city of Graysville and the town of Spring City for The Herald-News. As editor-in-chief of Bryan College's student news group, Triangle, Alex reported on ...

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