How To Tell If Pipes Are Frozen And How To Unfreeze Them

With temperatures dropping and different parts of the country experiencing their first snowfalls of the season, it is time for property owners to review frozen pipe preventative measures and share them with their tenants. Cold winter temperatures can cause pipes to freeze, or even burst. That’s because when water freezes, it expands, putting pressure on pipes that may result in a tiny leak or a full crack — and no one wants to find Old Faithful in their home.

Dos and Donts for Fixing Frozen Pipes:

How to Tell if Pipes Are Frozen?

One of the earliest signs of a frozen pipe is reduced or no flow out of a plumbing fixture, like a faucet, shower, or toilet. If plumbing pipes are visible, frost or bulging are other good indicators of a frozen pipe.

Before doing anything, shut off the water supply to that section of plumbing. The real trouble begins after the pipe thaws, because water may gush out and leak after a hard freeze.

How to Fix Frozen Pipes

Most times, the best choice is to call a plumber for help. However, if you are experienced with home maintenance work and feel comfortable, there are options. Here are a few do’s and don’ts to keep in mind if you attempt to thaw frozen pipes yourself:

  1. DO Keep Faucets Open: The main water valve to the house should be closed but the faucets must remain open. As pipes thaw, water and steam are released and it needs an outlet or else it may burst the pipe.
  2. DON’T Use Any Open Flame: Blowtorches, propane or kerosene heaters, charcoal stoves, and any other open flame device should not be used to thaw frozen pipes. Avoid using space heaters unless the area is completely clear of fire hazards.
  3. DO Apply Heat to the Frozen Section: Towels soaked in hot water, heating pads, or hair dryers can all help to thaw a pipe. Remember that these items should be never left unattended as they may cause a fire. If you see water leakage, stop using any form of electric heating or else you run the risk of being electrocuted.
  4. DON’T Keep Cabinets, Closets, and Doors Closed: Pipes are often located in inconspicuous places like cabinets. With cabinets and interior doors open, heat from the home can flow through the house easier and better reach the pipes.
  5. DO Have Patience: Apply heat until water flow returns to normal. To test whether a pipe has thawed, turn on all faucets and the water main valve and make sure water is flowing normally and not leaking from any cracked pipes.

If you detect that a pipe has burst during your test, shut off the main water supply immediately. Remove as much water as possible using mops, sponges, towels, and a wet vacuum to minimize water-related problems. Call a plumber and call your insurance agent if the situation warrants it.

Preventing Frozen Pipes

While frozen pipes are fixable, it often takes time and money, and undoubtedly causes stress. The best thing to do is to take steps to prevent pipes from freezing in the first place. Here are simple preventative measures for property owners and tenants:

Dos and Donts for Preventing Frozen Pipes:

  1. Drain water from pipes that are likely to freeze, such as swimming pool, hose, or sprinkler water supply lines.
  2. Seal up cracks and holes in walls located near pipes to keep the cold air out. Outfit pipes with insulation, such as foam, rubber, or fiberglass sleeves, to help decrease the chance of them freezing. In places like attics and basements, this is especially crucial.
  3. Keep it heated and keep thermostats around 55 degrees day and night.
  4. Properly seal exterior doors, including garage doors, and windows to reduce the amount of cold air entering the home.