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.

Water damage due to frozen pipes that burst can occur in any commercial building but these water systems are likely to freeze most often: swimming pool feeder lines, outdoor hose bibs, water supply lines and unheated interior areas such as custodial closets in basements, and parking garages. And watch out for pipes that run against exterior walls because their lack of insulation makes them susceptible to freezing.

Prevent pipe freezing now

Here are some tips to prevent pipes from freezing that can be performed before the cold weather hits and during winter:

  • If there are water supply lines in the garage, keep it closed and seal air leaks.
  • Open the doors in warmer areas of the building which are connected to colder areas which allows for warmer air to circulate around the plumbing.
  • Consider keeping the building at a higher temperature
  • 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.
  • If one pipe is frozen, it's possible that other water systems could freeze, too. Perform routine checks of these problem areas.

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

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