What To Do If You Have A Frozen Pipe This Winter
It's that time of year again - cold temperatures are here and frozen pipes are a real threat in many homes. Dealing with a frozen pipe can be stressful, but there are steps you can take while waiting for a plumber to arrive to minimize damage.
Assess The Situation
The first thing you'll want to do is locate where the frozen pipe is. Check all faucets and spigots around your home to see if any have little to no water flow. Also check for any bulging or cracks in the frozen pipe, as this may indicate an imminent burst. If you have access to your home's subfloor crawl space or basement, visually inspect all exposed piping.
Once you've identified the frozen section, determine if it services any appliances like washing machines, dishwashers or toilets. Shut off the water valves for these appliances if possible to minimize water damage when the frozen pipe thaws.
After shutting off valves, open the faucets closest to the frozen pipe. Opening the faucets provides an escape route for expanding water when thawing begins. This can help relieve pressure buildup from ice expansion inside the frozen pipe and prevent bursts and cracks.
Regulate The Temperature
One common cause of frozen pipes is allowing the temperature around pipes to get too cold. Try to keep an even temperature of at least 55°F around all piping. For exposed pipes, consider insulating wrap or portable heaters to add warmth.
Safely Thaw The Frozen Section
Applying gentle, even heat around the frozen pipe can help thaw ice blockages. Use a hair dryer, space heater or hot water bottles to slowly warm the area. Avoid any direct flame sources like blow torches or open flames - this can damage pipes and cause house fires.
Thaw pipes starting closest to the open faucet end, moving slowly towards the coldest section. This allows melted water to drain out as you work. Check frequently for cracks or drips as ice relents - this means you're close to breakthrough.
Be Ready When The Pipe Thaws
Once thawed, have clean rags or towels ready to catch dripping water. A bucket or pan placed under the pipe will help collect runoff. Leave faucets open and inspect pipes thoroughly for any cracks or leaks. Inform your plumber immediately if you find any damage.
You'll also want to plan for loss of water service in your home until pipes can be fully repaired. Fill spare containers with water for drinking, cooking or cleaning use. Limit use of any appliances connected to the previously frozen pipe until a plumber can inspect and confirm integrity.
Preventing Frozen Pipes
While not much can be done once a pipe freezes, there are preventative steps to help avoid frozen pipes in the first place:
Exposed pipes in unheated areas like attics, basements or crawl spaces should be insulated. Pipe wrap insulation is inexpensive and easy to install.
Seal Air Leaks
Drafts from outside can quickly freeze pipes inside. Seal windows, doors, and crawl space vents to keep warm air in and cold air out.
Let Faucets Drip
Keeping a small drip at faucets helps keep water moving through pipes in extreme cold. This makes it harder for pipes to freeze.
Keep thermostat set to at least 55°F. For cold spells, temporarily set the thermostat higher to add warmth near pipes.
Disconnect Outdoor Hoses
Detach and drain any hoses or irrigation systems connected to exterior faucets. This eliminates pools of standing water that can freeze and expand back into pipes.
Dealing with frozen pipes can be frustrating, but following these tips can help minimize damage while waiting for repairs:
- Locate the frozen section and shut off connected valves
- Open nearby faucets to release pressure
- Apply gentle heat to slowly thaw the pipe
- Have towels and buckets ready to catch excess water
- Prevent future freeze-ups by insulating pipes before winter
Taking quick action when frozen pipes strike can help avoid catastrophic pipe bursts and water damage. But prevention is key - take steps to winterize pipes before cold temperatures arrive to avoid frozen pipe headaches this winter. If you have a burst or frozen pipe in your home, our frozen pipe repair experts can help you fix your pipe and come up with a solution to avoid future issues.