Rash Of Frozen, Busted Pipes Keeps Hardware Stores, Plumbers Busy
BY O.J. EARLY
A few bins normally full of supplies sat empty for two weeks at Ace Hardware on West Main Street in Greeneville.
PVC pipe, cement glue and other fix-it-yourself plumbing materials have sold out at least once at the Greeneville store since Jan. 1.
"Plumbing stuff -- it's gone like crazy," sales associate James Willis said. "There have been people come in that would get one thing fixed and then something else would break."
A bone-chilling month, highlighted by temperatures dipping below zero in Greene County, has generated plenty of plumbing problems across the area.
Local hardware stores and plumbers reported a surge in business this winter, with pipes freezing and bursting at homes all across Greene County.
"There has been a lot of freezing problems this year related to cold weather problems," said Mike Stout, store manager of the Lowe's in Greeneville. "Our market has experienced a lot of freezing pipe problems, with a lot of customers doing their own repairs."
Lowe's corporate policy prohibited Stout from sharing specific data about plumbing-related sales.
While some water-line breaks can be fixed by a layman, others call for professionals.
In short: local plumbers have stayed busy.
"You wouldn't believe it," said Chris Clayman, owner of C&L Plumbing. "Right now, we are re-piping a house in Camp Creek where water has been off for three weeks."
The increase in customers seeking plumbing assistance has made it difficult for Clayman to make appointments.
"We've had a hard three weeks," Clayman said. "Digging in the mud, cold and wet ... it's been hard."
Mike Mitchell, owner of M and M Plumbing, said he hasn't seen this much business in nearly a decade.
"I've had so much work that I've had to turn down work," said Mitchell, who serves Greeneville, Greene County and Morristown. "And that's just not something you see."
Mitchell said that early in January, when temperatures hit near-record lows, he occasionally worked until 1:30 a.m.
"I did a house in Chuckey ... it had copper pipes breaking in between the first and second floor. It caused $10,000 to $15,000 worth of damage in their house," Mitchell said.
Since Jan. 1, the Greeneville Water Department has fielded 250 calls from customers related to water-line problems, Superintend Laura White said.
The department also boasts another figure that gives evidence of a harsh winter: The on-call employee, in charge of turning off water meters when lines breaks, logged 96 hours of overtime in early January.
"We do request that if you do have a break on your side of the meter that you do call us to come and turn the valve off at the meter box," White said. "If you would happen to break something out there, the customer is responsible for that charge."
There are precautions you can take to prevent pipes from freezing.
Here are some tips, provided by Greeneville Fire Department Administrative Capt. Marty Shelton:
* Wrap pipes in insulation or layers of paper, covering the paper with plastic.
* Keep a drip of warm water running from a faucet farthest from your water meter.
* If a pipe should freeze, remove the insulation, open all faucets and dump hot water over the pipes. You can also wrap the pipes with towels soaked in hot water.