Tips to prevent and treat frozen pipes

October 22, 2019
A woman in the utility room of a building holds a smart phone displaying the words flood

One of the most common water issues caused by cold weather are frozen pipes.

When it freezes, water in a pipe expands. This creates pressure on the pipe and could cause it to burst, regardless if it is plastic or metal. Pipes that freeze most frequently are swimming pool feeder lines, outdoor hose bibs, water supply lines and unheated interior areas such as basements, attics, garages and crawl spaces. And watch out for pipes that run against exterior walls because their lack of insulation makes them susceptible to freezing.

Prevent pipe freezing now

Ideally, you would have drained the water from your pipes in the fall, before the temperature dipped below zero. Now that we’re in the middle of winter, here are some tips to prevent pipes from freezing now:

  • If there are water supply lines in the garage, keep it closed and seal air leaks.
  • Open the cabinet doors in your kitchen and bathroom to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing.
  • When the weather is very cold outside, let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe - even at a trickle - helps prevent pipes from freezing.
  • If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 13 degrees Celsius.
  • Wrap pipes that are exposed to cold with foam insulation or even a few pages of newspaper.

How to thaw frozen pipes

Thaw frozen pipes in your home
The remaining water froze in the pipe and may have burst, flooding the interior

If you turn on a faucet and only a bit of water comes out, the pipe is likely frozen. Here’s what you should try to fix the problem:

  • Keep the faucet open and water running. It may help to melt the frozen area in the pipe.
  • Using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, an electric hair dryer, a portable space heater apply heat to the section of pipe. You can also try wrapping the pipes with towels soaked in hot water. Do not use an open flame.
  • Apply 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 cannot thaw the pipe, call a licensed plumber.
  • Check all other faucets in your home to find out if you have additional frozen pipes. If one pipe freezes, others may freeze, too.

It's important to keep in mind that thawing the pipes could take a few hours, depending on the situation.

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