No matter how cold and snowy the weather, you can always find respite from the freezing outside temperatures in the comforting warmth of your home. But however well-protected from the wrath of winter you may be in your snug little house, severe cold can still cause a lot of problems – frozen pipes being the most common.
When water pipes freeze, they may easily crack and burst under the pressure of the expanding frozen water, causing a major home disaster – even the tiniest crack in a pipe can spew up dozens of gallons of water a day, resulting in flooding, structural damage, and potential mold problems in the property. Therefore, if you find frozen water pipes in your home, they need to be fixed as soon as possible – if you take quick and adequate measures you may be able to thaw the pipes before they burst and cause further damage.
Here is what to do if your pipes freeze during the cold winter months:
How to Find a Frozen Water Pipe
First things first, you need to find the frozen pipe(s). Sometimes this may be quite easy (if you see a water pipe covered in frost that’s a clear sign it is frozen), but more often than not the frozen line will be difficult to locate – there are lots of pipes in a home, after all, and many of them are not exposed, so finding the frozen one(s) may be trickier than you think.
As soon as you realize that there may be a frozen pipe on your property (such as when you turn on the faucet on a cold winter day and nothing comes out), start looking for it so you can fix it before it causes greater troubles:
Turn on all the faucets in your home:
- If none of them are running, the problem will be near where the main water pipe enters the house
- If water flows through some of the faucets but not through others, the frozen pipe will be among the lines that supply the dry faucets.
Check the pipes that are most vulnerable to freezing:
- Pipes located in unheated interior areas like crawlspaces, attics, and basements
- Pipes located near cold air vents
- Pipes that run along exterior walls
- Pipes that don’t have adequate insulation
If you can’t find the frozen pipe(s), call a licensed plumber for help. But if you can find it, act immediately to prevent severe water damage to your home.
What to Do About Frozen Pipes
After finding a frozen pipe, examine it for cracks and fissures:
- If the pipe is broken or otherwise compromised, turn off the main water valve and call a plumber. Do not attempt to thaw the pipe – the ice inside acts as a plug, preventing water from spilling out of the crack. If it melts, water will pour out and cause a disaster. In such a case, you will need not only a plumber but some experienced water damage restoration specialists as well
- If the pipe is undamaged, try to thaw it out as soon as possible
How to Thaw Frozen Pipes
- Leave the faucets open – this will help relieve the built-in pressure in the pipe and will allow water to run freely when the ice melts.
- Start thawing the pipe at the faucet and work back towards the frozen section. As the ice melts, water and steam will come out of the faucet. If you start unfreezing the pipe in the middle, the steam may get trapped inside and put extra pressure on the pipe, causing it to burst.
- Do not pour boiling water directly over a frozen pipe as the abrupt change in the temperature may cause it to break (turning on your immersion heater or central heating boiler may have the same effect; however, it is advised to refrain from doing so).
- Never use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove, or other open flame devices to thaw a frozen water pipe.
- Apply heat to the frozen pipe until full water pressure is restored:
- Use a heat tape – wrap it in a spiral pattern around the frozen pipe and make sure you warm up the pipe slowly and evenly (every heat tape comes with a thermostat that allows you to control its temperature).
- Use a hair dryer or a portable space heater – run the heating device back and forth along the length of the frozen pipe to gradually warm it up.
- Wrap the frozen pipe with towels soaked in hot water – replace the towels every 10 minutes until the pipe is completely unfrozen.
- Warm up your home – raise the temperature in the room where the frozen line is located to about 80°F and place a space heater near the pipe.
Good to know: If the frozen pipe is inside a wall, thawing it will be much more difficult. You can turn up the heating, using an infrared lamp to heat the section of the wall behind which the frozen pipe is located, or blowing warm air into an external vent in the same wall with the help of a fan heater. If none of these work (or if the pipe has already burst), the wall will need to be opened to access the pipe.
In the case of a leak, your best bet is to hire professional frozen pipe water damage restoration specialists to inspect the affected area, mitigate the damage, and take appropriate measures to prevent mold problems in your home.
Preventing Frozen Pipes
Pipe bursting is among the most troublesome home damage scenarios. To prevent it from happening, you’re advised to:
- Make sure all the pipes in your property are in good condition.
- Insulate attics, basements, and crawl spaces to keep the temperatures in these areas higher.
- Add insulation to your pipes to provide an extra layer of protection against the winter cold, including heat tapes, heat cables, and pipe sleeves.
- Disconnect garden hoses and shut off outside faucets before winter comes.
- Let any faucets connected to pipes that run through unheated areas drip when the outside temperatures are below zero. The running water won’t allow the pipes to freeze.
- Keep the thermostat in your home set at about 65°F at all times during the winter months.
- Let warm air circulate freely around the plumbing – keep kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors open so that warm air can get to un-insulated pipes under sinks and appliances, use fan heaters to direct warm air towards the pipes, etc.
- If you will be away from home for more than a couple of days, make sure to take adequate measures to prevent the pipes from freezing in the meantime – shut off the main water supply, leave the heating on (set to a temperature no lower than 55° F), etc.
Emergency Water Damage Restoration from Frozen Pipes
If your prevention efforts fail and your home in the Dallas or Garland, TX area is affected by frozen or burst pipes, do not hesitate to call ServiceMaster of North Texas to your aid. We can provide emergency water damage cleanup from frozen pipes, restore the good condition of your home, and assist you with your insurance claim. You can reach us at (972) 840-8888, any time of day or night.