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What To Do If You Have Frozen Pipes

Male plumber repairing sink pipes in kitchen

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Frozen pipes are one of the worst nightmares of most homeowners. We’ve all heard stories about pipes freezing and then bursting and flooding a home, leaving the homeowner, similarly, in floods of tears. But if you have frozen pipes in your house, the good news is that you can come back from it. Disaster is not necessarily imminent as there are a few tricks and tactics that are recommended by the professionals you can use to thaw them safely.

With that in mind, what should you do if you have frozen pipes? Home service experts, Polestar Plumbing, chipped in with some pro tips you should take in order to help reduce potential damage.

Find the frozen pipe  

Does your home have a complete lack of water coming out of your faucets and fixtures? Will the toilet not refill after flushing? If these problems occur when there are freezing temperatures outside, the likelihood is that you have a frozen pipe. So, the first thing you need to do is find where the frozen pipe (or pipes) is.

The most likely pipes to freeze are those that are exposed, such as the pipes along the outside of the house, in basements, and under sinks. So check those first. Frozen pipes will typically have a bulge in them. If there’s frost on a pipe, that’s also a good sign that it’s frozen. If your boiler isn’t working, it may be the condensate pipe, which takes condensation from the boiler to a drain.

It’s essential to note that you should contact a professional in the case of a plumbing emergency rather than attempt to fix it yourself. Many home service companies, such as Polestar Plumbing, offer 24/7 emergency plumbing services.

How to thaw frozen pipes

No matter where the frozen pipe is, you must always shut off the water supply to that section of plumbing or the whole house before you try to thaw it. The reason is that the expansion of the frozen pipes may have caused cracks, and if the water is still on, it can come spilling out of the cracks as soon as the frozen section has thawed. Once you have shut the water off, your next step will depend on where the frozen pipe is.

 Hands of plumber connecting pipe union to flexible hose

Thawing exposed pipes

If the frozen pipe is exposed, the thawing process is a lot easier. Whatever thawing method you choose, you should continue to apply the heat until your water is flowing as freely as it ever did.

Hot towels – One of the simplest and gentlest ways (slow thawing is good thawing) to thaw frozen pipes is to wrap hot towels around the frozen section and wait for them to do their magic.
Hairdryer – A more direct approach is to thaw the frozen pipe with a hairdryer. You should heat the part of the pipe closest to the faucet or fixture first, and always take great care to stay well away from any water when operating the hairdryer, for obvious reasons.
Electrical heating tape – Another option is to fix electrical heating tape directly to the pipe. However, as you may have to go to the store to buy the tape, the other methods may be more convenient.

Thawing enclosed pipes

Thawing frozen pipes in enclosed areas is a bit trickier, but it shouldn’t cause you too many problems. You can:

Turn the heating on – If you can’t locate the frozen pipe, then putting the heating on in your home and turning the thermostat up might be all that’s required to melt the blockage.
Use an infrared lamp – If that’s not successful and you think you know where the frozen pipe is, you could place an infrared lamp in the room facing the part of the wall where the pipe is located.
Cut out a section of wall – If you have no idea what you’re doing, stop now and call a professional plumber. But if you do have experience working with drywall, then cut the section in front of the frozen pipe away and use any of the thawing methods discussed in the exposed pipe section above.

How to prevent your pipes from freezing again

Rather than going through the rigmarole of thawing freezing pipes, it’s much easier to prevent them from freezing in the first instance. If you live in an area that regularly experiences freezing temperatures, it’s worth calling the professionals.

Professional plumbers can install heat tape or heat cable to prevent frozen pipes. The heat cable will replace the heat lost from the pipe. You should also insulate the pipe to keep the heat in. It’s always best to use a professional to install the cable, as it can be dangerous if it’s not fitted correctly.

If you live in an area that rarely experiences freezing temperatures, you should be able to avoid frozen pipes by taking a few simpler steps. For example, turning the heating on when you’re not at home and keeping the interior doors open to distribute the heat evenly should do the trick. Allowing faucets to drip slightly and adding extra insulation are other simple steps you can take.

So there you have it, a few quick ways to avert disaster by thawing frozen pipes and not letting them freeze in the first place.