Frozen Pipes? How to Thaw Plumbing and Prevent Further Damage to Your Home
When a sudden temperature drop occurs, the risk of freezing pipes increases. Unfortunately, water has the unique property of expanding as it freezes, and when it does, the pressure inside the affected pipe rises. The result: a burst pipe and gallons of water let loose behind your walls and ceilings, incurring possibly thousands of dollars in damage to your home, furniture, floors and personal items. In cases of extreme cold snaps, frozen pipes can be unavoidable. However, there are steps you can take to thaw your pipes and avoid further and potentially very costly damage to your home.
- First thing’s first: know how to spot frozen plumbing. If you turn on a faucet and only a trickle comes out, suspect a frozen pipe. When using your sinks or toilets, keep your ears alert for clanging, bubbling and whistling sounds – all telltale signs of damage resulting from frozen pipes. The location of the freeze is likely in the plumbing running along exterior walls or where your water enters your home through its foundation.
- Keep the faucet open. As you address the frozen area and it begins to melt, the running water will speed the process along.
- Apply heat to the section of pipe using a towel soaked in hot water, electric heating pad or a hair dryer. AVOID using a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove, or other device using an open flame. Do NOT under any circumstances operate an electrical appliance while standing in water.
- Continue to apply heat until normal water pressure is restored. However, if you are not able to locate to frozen area, if it is inaccessible, or if you cannot thaw the pipe, call a licensed plumber for further assistance.
What if the pipes burst?
Take the time to label your water shut-offs in advance so you can spot them easily in such an event. If you notice wet rings or dampness on your walls or water accumulation and puddling where there shouldn’t be, the pipes may have burst. You should immediately shut off the water to prevent further damage. Remove standing water with wet vacuums, and use specialty fans and dehumidifiers for drying. Contact a licensed plumber immediately to repair the damage and restore the water. If the damage is severe, consider hiring an emergency water-mitigation service for assistance.