Winter is a time for hot cocoa and eggnog, for snowmen and sleigh rides. Unfortunately, the cold weather also introduces the possibility of frozen pipes.
Problems Associated with Frozen Pipes
What's the big deal? When the pipes thaw out, everything goes back to normal, right?
First of all, when pipes freeze, they restrict running water. This prevents you from doing normal tasks, such as taking a shower, washing the dishes or cooking.
Second, water has a unique property: it expands when it freezes. In a water pipe with no extra room to spare, the expansion could be enough to rupture the pipe. This is possible whether your pipes are metal or plastic. Even the strongest pipes can't withstand the force of expanding water turning into ice, which exerts up to 2,000 pounds of pressure per square inch.
Pipes Most Vulnerable to Freezing
The pipes in your home most likely to freeze are those with greater exposure to extremely cold temperatures. The most common spots include:
- Outdoor hose bibs
- Swimming pool supply lines
- Water sprinkler lines
- Plumbing running through unheated interior spaces, such as in the basement, garage, attic, crawlspace and under sink cabinets
- Pipes extending along an exterior wall with little or no insulation
Hopefully, you have taken the necessary precautions for avoiding frozen pipes. These preventative measures can help you avoid the potentially costly and messy outcome resulting from frozen pipes.
How to Know if You Have Frozen Pipes
If no water is coming from the faucet, that's the first and biggest clue that your pipes are frozen. If only a slight trickle leaves the faucet or nothing comes out at all, look for these other two clues:
- Bitterly cold temperatures: If any of your pipes are exposed to the elements, they have the potential to freeze when the temperature drops below 32 degrees. The lower the temperature and the longer the deep freeze lasts, the higher your risk.
- Frost on the pipe: Look for frost on exposed pipes, such as those under the kitchen and bathroom sinks. This is a severe sign your pipes are frozen.
What to Do if You Have Frozen Pipes
Take immediate action to safely thaw the pipes and reduce damage. Here's what to do:
- Turn off the main water line: Look at the frozen pipe closely. If it has burst, shut off the main water line without delay! Even if the burst area is not leaking yet, this important first step is vital for preventing thousands of gallons of water from dumping into your home once you thaw the frozen pipe.
- Open the faucet supplied by the frozen pipe: This reduces pressure and gives the thawed ice somewhere to go.
- Apply heat: If the frozen pipe is behind a finished wall, you can choose to turn up the thermostat and wait, tear out a section of the wall to access the pipe, or use an infrared lamp to heat the pipe through the wall. Thawing exposed pipes is much simpler. Moving from the faucet toward the frozen area, warm the pipe with a hair dryer, heat lamp, portable space heater or electric heating pad. Never use an open flame device.
- Check for other frozen areas: Test all the faucets in your home. If others show the obvious signs of frozen pipes, follow these steps to thaw them out. If you can't find the frozen area or the pipe is completely inaccessible, still turn off the main water line. Then, call a licensed plumber for help.
For more tips, or for help thawing your frozen pipes, please contact Mr. Rooter® today.