Freeze Damage to a Property

21 Replies

Hey Guys,

How much does it cost to repair freeze damage to a property? Just wanted to have an average contingency number to fix this. Thanks

Raymond Hill, Real Estate Agent in MA (#1000268) and RI (#041149)

Well if the pipes froze , then you also have some water damage . Count on a LOT of work . Traps could be cracked , pipes split , not including drywall and flooring from the water .

@Matthew Paul Hey, so the property is a foreclosure and has been winterized, but your saying I should still account for those costs when rehabbing?

Raymond Hill, Real Estate Agent in MA (#1000268) and RI (#041149)

I would account for the WORST possible scenario . And work backward from that .  

Originally posted by @Matthew Paul :

I would account for the WORST possible scenario . And work backward from that .  

 Definitely. You’re buying the property I would assume as is. If you just assume that with freeze damage there is also water damage and possibly mold and electrical you’ll have your bases covered. That may put the property you’re considering out of reach but that’s better than losing money.

Raymond, this is impossible to answer. You asked about freeze damage but then say it was winterized. If it was winterized, the plumbing, furnace, water heater, and everything should be fine and you can get things back up for as little as a few hundred dollars. If it was not winterized, you could have split pipes in walls, a bad furnace, broken water heater, etc. This could cost tens of thousands to repair.

It also depends on the size of the home. What's the square footage? How many bathrooms? How cold has it been in your area?

Originally posted by @Nathan G. :

Raymond, this is impossible to answer. You asked about freeze damage but then say it was winterized. If it was winterized, the plumbing, furnace, water heater, and everything should be fine and you can get things back up for as little as a few hundred dollars. If it was not winterized, you could have split pipes in walls, a bad furnace, broken water heater, etc. This could cost tens of thousands to repair.

It also depends on the size of the home. What's the square footage? How many bathrooms? How cold has it been in your area?

I’m very new. If a place is winterized then it can be assumed that the plumbing works? I ask because a lot of local foreclosures are winterized and I have been trying to figure out how to get the plumbing (and electrical) inspected prior to purchase.

We have dealt with a lot of frozen properties & in most cases you will need to replace all the copper as pin hole cracks can appear in several places in one length. The last one was a single family home & took a week & $2200 in materials as a lot of the cast iron barely functional drains were also replaced. Also some of the older homes could still have soap/dirt/grease coated drum traps that invariably freeze & are tough to get to. 

To this date unless the water lines were purged & then filled with RV freeze protection its not a guarantee. We had a lake house job recently whereby the owner insisted he purged/drained the lines then blew them out with air. A 3/4 copper lateral burst in the most difficult spot to repair/replace with Pex. We eventually replaced all the copper runs with Pex.

We then found an old forgotten P-trap buried in a wall that also cracked & showed up when they moved the washer back to that drain. 

Also if hot water heater tanks, dishwasher pumps etc retain any water you can get freeze damage.

One other thing to keep in mind is that sometimes properties are winterized too late. We bought an REO and the bank had winterized it, but it had sat vacant and had frozen pipes before that. We accounted for that possibility before buying. When we had the water turned on the first time, we had a couple people in the house just in case there were lots of leaks (which there were). Pex has made plumbing repairs soooo much easier and less expensive than I understand used to be the case. Pretty easy thing to learn for DIYers too. Good luck!

@James Canoy you are always taking a risk on a foreclosure. As @Erin K. points out, you want to know when it was winterized. In my experience, foreclosures have a "sign-in" sheet that shows who entered the home and when. You should be able to check the records and see if they winterized it early enough. Even then, you run the risk that there the winterization was done improperly or that there were leaks and problems before it was winterized. Also remember that a properly winterized home continues to deteriorate. I took over a house that sat empty for almost three years and had to make a lot of repairs to the plumbing and appliances because they sat unused for so long.

I recently saw a home that sat vacant for a while before it was foreclosed. The house lost heat and pipes froze. Someone shut off the water main and left it sitting without making repairs. Bank foreclosed and winterized the home but the damage was already done.

I would plan for the worst and hope for the best.

just to throw this out there, but by me all the foreclosures ive walked int, yeh they had the cute little stickers saying they were winterized, but nope the plumbers would dump some antifreeze down the toilets and call it a day, if you look real close at the heating systems almost always they're popped somewhere. So honestly don't take their word it was winterized plan on doing a lot of repairs to the plumbing. Best case scenario they hired a plumber who actually ran antifreeze through the entire system and you make out a head

Michael Gessner, Contractor
Originally posted by @Pat L. :

We have dealt with a lot of frozen properties & in most cases you will need to replace all the copper as pin hole cracks can appear in several places in one length. The last one was a single family home & took a week & $2200 in materials as a lot of the cast iron barely functional drains were also replaced. Also some of the older homes could still have soap/dirt/grease coated drum traps that invariably freeze & are tough to get to. 

To this date unless the water lines were purged & then filled with RV freeze protection its not a guarantee. We had a lake house job recently whereby the owner insisted he purged/drained the lines then blew them out with air. A 3/4 copper lateral burst in the most difficult spot to repair/replace with Pex. We eventually replaced all the copper runs with Pex.

We then found an old forgotten P-trap buried in a wall that also cracked & showed up when they moved the washer back to that drain. 

Also if hot water heater tanks, dishwasher pumps etc retain any water you can get freeze damage.

 Where at in upstate?

My last house in CT was winterized when purchased. Had probably 20 breaks throughout the water and heat loops. They must have winterized it too late. I always assume there are issues and do my best to look for them when I'm there doing my inspection. If I see one break, I assume there are a lot more.

Originally posted by @Brian Pulaski :

My last house in CT was winterized when purchased. Had probably 20 breaks throughout the water and heat loops. They must have winterized it too late. I always assume there are issues and do my best to look for them when I'm there doing my inspection. If I see one break, I assume there are a lot more.

 What’s an approximate average to assume prior to buying? The houses are sold with no electricity or water and I can’t hook up utilities prior to buying.

My last boiler replacement was $6400, oil fired for an 1800 SF house, no HW storage tank. The house mentioned above I believe we ended up about $1500 in misc pipe repairs and adding a few sections of baseboard for the kitchen renovation and master bath addition. I have done full baseboard repipe with new covers for a 1200 SF ranch. That was $2300 if memory serves me. I use these previous jobs to get an idea of what work I think is needed on a house I'm viewing and then create my budget.

My plumber told me a lot of winterization companies are a joke, and from my experience a property that was supposedly “winterized” can still have bursted pipes. Foreclosure we bought had 6 that needed to be replaced.

Originally posted by @Brad L. :

My plumber told me a lot of winterization companies are a joke, and from my experience a property that was supposedly “winterized” can still have bursted pipes. Foreclosure we bought had 6 that needed to be replaced.

 How much should I assume for any house? Is there anything to guide me? I’d rather not assume something and end up being at a masssive loss.

@James Canoy there is no hard set number to carry for every house. You have to take it property to property. An 800 SF ranch with some busted water pipes will cost a lot less than a 2500 SF Colonial with burst baseboard heat and 3 bathrooms worth of busted water pipes. I wouldn't carry the same budget for these houses. There is just no way to try and stick one number to any house with possible freeze damage.

How do you determine the extent of water damage to a house or pipe damage before buying the house? I would assume that no one will turn on the water in the winterized house for me to inspect.

Originally posted by @James Canoy :

How do you determine the extent of water damage to a house or pipe damage before buying the house? I would assume that no one will turn on the water in the winterized house for me to inspect.

 You can do an air pressure test but it's important to note there are no short cuts. There is no simple answer other than being able to identify what is broken and the cost to repair it.

Will you make money on every deal you do? Probably not. Will you learn something from every deal you do? Yes. Sometimes you gotta accept some risk and just take your licks when it doesn't go your way. If it was easy everyone would be a millionaire real estate investor.

James Wise, Real Estate Agent in OH (#2015001161)
216-661-6633

@James Canoy  there is no guarantee  to find everything before owning the house.

What James Wise says is an option, however what I have been told is air doesn't work to find all the breaks. If you have a heat loop the air will find the first path out, and you won't really find breaks further down the run. My plumber also found pipe breaks inside a wall that I never could have seen.

One thing I found, the baseboard heat tends to pop at the joint from the pipe to the fine and tube. Most of the breaks were there on the few houses I have dealt with burst pipes.

I bought a few houses that have been winterized and always expect to find broken pipes. So far I haven't had to replace any boilers (I check to make sure they opened the boiler drain valve) I think the reason the property preservation companies don't do a thorough job is because they are not paid well. I get a kick out of some of the adds, they want you to have all your own tools and equipment, truck, IPhone, insurance, contractors license and knowledge but unwilling to pay a fair wage.   

(860) 483-6341

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