How to Prevent & Thaw Frozen Pipes

How to Prevent & Thaw Frozen Pipes

Frozen pipes are a wintertime nightmare. You can expect several costly problems to follow when your supply of water is frozen for even a couple of days. This is as simple as some inconvenient moments when you’re unable to take a shower or make coffee, or it causes damage to your plumbing system and leaves you with more serious issues after the thaw. Learn more about how to prevent frozen pipes during these cold months.

Pipes that freeze most frequently are:

  • Pipes that are exposed to severe cold, like outdoor hose bibs, swimming pool supply lines, and water sprinkler lines.
  • Water supply pipes in unheated interior areas like basements and crawl spaces, attics, garages, or kitchen cabinets.
  • Pipes that run against exterior walls that have little or no insulation.

Why Are Frozen Pipes Dangerous?

Water expands when it freezes. This means that your plumbing, already under a lot of pressure, is trying to contain a solid larger than itself causing your pipes to burst.

How to Prevent Frozen Pipes

Know Your Plumbing

  • Identify where your plumbing pipes run around the house and locate water shut-off valves, in case of emergency. Getting to know where your plumbing lines run is a measure to identify and prevent potential risks.

Do a Safety Inspection

  • Call your plumbing professionals to do a safety inspection. They can identify and fix issues that oftentimes result in catastrophes, if not taken care of early enough.

Insulate Your Pipes

  • Exposed hot and cold water pipes should be well insulated to prevent freezing by maintaining temperatures above 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

Leave Faucets Drip

  • Leave outdoor faucets and faucets in the coldest parts of the house open. By open, this means letting out even a trickle of water. The flowing water helps prevent pipes from freezing.

Expose Pipes to Heat

The main fix is to make your pipes sufficiently warm during the winter. You can do this by:

  • Adding insulation to the coldest parts of the house and sealing cracks around doors and windows.
  • Using space heaters to run on low in these high-risk areas.
  • Keeping kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors slightly ajar to help the warmth from your HVAC system warm the pipes
  • Keeping garage doors and windows closed if there are water pipes in the garage
  • Not shutting down your HVAC system, even if you’re out of town. 
  • Keeping the thermostat set to the same temperature both at night and during the day. You may incur a higher electricity bill but you can prevent a much more costly repair job.
  • Temporarily sealing any crawl spaces using foam cut to the size of the vents.

Unfortunately, we may still encounter frozen pipes if precautionary measures are not well taken. 

Signs of a Frozen Pipe

  • No water or a slight tickle comes out of your faucet
  • Frost on pipes
  • Pipes could be blocked by ice when odors come from drains or faucets.
  • Any signs of flooding, leaking, or structural damage can be attributed to frozen pipes. Leakages may be easily noticed but sometimes, the signs may be hidden. Here are some warning signs of hidden water damage in your home:

Peeling or bubbling paint and wallpaper

Strong, musty odors associated with mold

Dirt-like stains of green, black, or orange (which also points to mold growth)

The sound of running water

Structural damage (sagging, collapsing, texturing) of walls and ceilings

How to Prevent Frozen Pipes and Thaw Them Properly

If your pipes have burst, shut off your water supply and call your plumbing professionals immediately. You need to take the following measures but also consider calling the professionals when your pipes are frozen.

  • Turn the water off from the main shutoff valve
  • Turn on a faucet so that water can flow through the pipe for the ice to begin melting.
  • Heat the frozen section of pipe with a space heater, hairdryer, or hot towel. However, avoid applying heat directly to the pipe for too long but gradually increase the temperature bit by bit.
  • Raise the temperature on your home’s thermostat a few degrees.
  • As you turn the water back on throughout the house via the main water supply valve, be on the lookout for any leaks.

Risks of Thawing a Frozen Pipe

There are two main risks when attempting to thaw frozen water pipes:

  • Fire. When using any heat source to thaw the frozen pipe, you can run the risk of starting a fire. Make sure to follow all safety instructions and never leave the product unattended.
  • Burst Pipe. If you do not begin the thawing process correctly, you could cause the pipe to burst. Always start thawing closest to the faucet.

At Wahl, we have great solutions to help keep your pipes and home protected! Contact us today for a safety inspection not only to identify potential frozen pipes and areas of concern but also carry out an entire home evaluation! Watch our Youtube video to learn more about preventing and thawing frozen pipes.