How to Deal With Frozen Pipes: A Guide for Homeowners

How to Deal With Frozen Pipes

Freezing weather and cold pipes can lead to a major at-home disaster. If it’s below freezing and suddenly you don’t have any water pressure, or the toilet doesn’t fill after flushing then you could have frozen pipes. It’s not just a pain to deal with, but since ice expands it can lead to your pipes cracking or bursting.

Many homeowners don’t know how to deal with frozen pipes, but it’s not as difficult as it seems. There are obvious signs of where the frozen pipes are in your basement. We’ll show you how to spot them and what you can do to unfreeze them.

Find the Frozen Pipe

The frozen pipe is likely in your basement or crawlspace under your home. These are the coldest areas of the home and pipes under the ground are below the permafrost, so they shouldn’t reach freezing temperatures.

The first thing to do is shut off water to that section of the pipe. If there are any cracks from the ice expanding, then the frozen water is like a plug. Once thawed, it can lead to the full force of the water being dumped in your basement.

Go to the basement or crawlspace and examine the pipes. The section that is frozen will have a layer of frost or ice around or be distended from the ice expansion. Make sure to examine all the pipes because there may be more than one spot.

Once you identify the problem areas, it’s time to thaw them

How to Deal with Frozen Pipes

The key to thawing the pipes is to get the temperature in the pipe above freezing. This can be done in several different ways. If it’s a small section, then use a hairdryer to heat the outside of the pipe and thaw the ice.

You can also use heat tape and wrap it around the section of the pipe. Heat tape is thermostatically controlled and can quickly unfreeze a pipe. If you don’t have a hairdryer or the section is large, then use space heaters to heat the entire area.

It can take a while for the space heaters to work, but they will thaw the pipe. If the ice caused a crack and the melted ice leads to leakage be careful. Quickly unplug the space heaters or hairdryer and use a mop and bucket and towels to clean up the water.

Do not use a high-temperature heat source such as a blowtorch to heat the pipe. This quickly heats the outside of the pipe and could cause a burn or become a fire risk.

Once the pipe is no longer frozen, it’s time to turn the water back on and head back to the basement to make sure there is no leakage coming from the pipe. If you don’t have a geyser in your basement, then you no longer have frozen water pipes and the job is finished.

What to Do When Your Pipe Freezes and Bursts

The worst-case scenario for a frozen pipe is the ice expansion causes cracks and deformities in the pipe and leads to a burst water pipe. Quickly turn off the water at the main shutoff valve to stop the geyser in your basement.

The next step is to call a plumber. Burst water pipes can cause serious damage to your basement or crawlspace and cause your water bill to skyrocket. Don’t try and handle it yourself and instead call a professional.

If you’re lucky, you caught it early, and not much water spilled. Try and dry out and remove as much water as possible before the plumbers arrive. Use mops, sponges, towels, and anything else to get rid of the water.

If the basement is finished or carpeted, then get fans and dehumidifiers as soon as possible. If not, then you risk mold and mildew. If the basement is saturated with water and you believe it damaged several items, then contact your insurance agent to see if you’re covered.

How to Prevent Frozen Pipes

Dealing with frozen pipes and the potentially expensive aftermath can be avoided if you take steps to prevent the pipes from freezing by properly winterizing them. The most common areas of freezing are areas where pipes are uncovered and open to the air.

While most freezes happen in the basement or crawlspace, interior pipes freeze as well if it gets cold enough. An inexpensive way to keep pipes from freezing is by covering them with pipe insulation. It’s cost-efficient and does a good job of keeping pipes above the freezing threshold.

Water freezes when it’s not moving, so keep a small drip from faucets to keep it running. You don’t need to have it on full blast, a small trickle is enough.

If you’re someone that turns the heat off at night or lowers it, then reconsider your pipes’ safety. You’ll pay more on your electric bill, but it could keep pipes from freezing.

The best and long-term solution is to add insulation to the impacted areas such as garages, attics, crawl spaces, and basements. You should also seal any cracks and other openings to prevent drafts from entering these areas.

A Little Preparation Goes a Long Way

You now know what to do when your pipe freezes but preparing for frozen pipes can save you money and prevent the destruction of your property. The cost of a burst frozen pipe insurance claim can be thousands of dollars.

Homeowners insurance will likely take care of it, but your deductible or your premiums will go up. It’s better to be prepared and save the hit to the pocketbook.

Frozen Pipes Don’t Have to Be a Hassle

Frozen pipes can be a nuisance, but it’s only when the pipe bursts or leaks does it become a problem for professionals. You now know how to deal with frozen pipes and how to keep them from freezing in the first place.

If you want more information on freezing pipes or other plumbing-related subjects, then please contact us today.