Frozen Pipes

Paul Martinez -

Tips for Preventing and Fixing Frozen Pipes

Frozen Pipes.

When temperatures plummet, the risk of your pipes freezing and bursting skyrockets. According to the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety, burst pipes are one of the most common causes of property damage during cold weather, which can cause thousands to repair the water damage—easily $5,000 or more.

As you know, water has the unique property of expanding as it freezes. When water freezes in a pipe, it expands and can exert a pressure of over 2,000 pounds per square inch. No matter the strength of a container, the expanding water will eventually cause your pipes to break.

How to Prevent Frozen Pipes

  • When the weather is very cold outside, let warm water drip from the faucet. Running water through the pipe—even at a trickle—will help prevent the pipes from freezing.
  • A frozen garden hose can cause more damage than a busted hose, as it can actually burst the interior pipe connected to it. When the water in the hose freezes, it expands, increasing pressure throughout the whole plumbing system. As part of your regular seasonal maintenance, garden hoses should be disconnected and drained.
  • Water pipes located in unheated exterior walls, basements, crawl spaces, or garages should be well insulated with sleeve-style pipe insulation to help prevent freezing.
  • Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night. Yes, your heating bill will be higher, but you can prevent a much more expensive repair bill if pipes freeze and burst.
  • If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55° F.

How to Thaw Frozen Pipes

  • If you turn on your faucet and only a trickle comes out, you likely have a frozen pipe. Common places for frozen pipes are against exterior walls or where your water enters your home from the outside.
  • Check all other faucets in your home to find out if you have additional frozen pipes. If one pipe freezes, others may freeze, too.
  • Keep the faucet open. Running water through the pipe will help melt ice in the pipe.
  • Apply heat to the frozen pipe using a hairdryer, a portable space heater, or by wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water.
  • Keep applying heat until full water pressure is restored. If you are unable to locate the frozen area, if the frozen area is not accessible, or if you can not thaw the pipe, then it's time to call a plumber before things get worse. This is because if one of them has burst, thawing them out could cause a flood. For broken pipes, the best course of action is to turn off your water at the main shutoff valve and call a plumber right away. They will be able to resolve the problem before temperatures unfreeze the pipes and flood your home.