Preventing and Thawing Frozen Pipes

Preventing and Thawing Frozen Pipes

Posted By: Lisa Clarke, Dryco Restoration and Reconstruction Services

Being prepared and informed may help you to avoid the mess and often expensive repairs to property damage caused by frozen pipes.  The American Red Cross provides information on how to prevent pipes in your home or business from freezing and how to thaw pipes if they do freeze.

Why a Frozen Pipe is a Problem

Water has a unique property which causes it to expand as it freezes.  This expansion puts tremendous pressure on whatever is containing it including metal or plastic pipes.  No matter the strength of the container, expanding water can cause pipes to break.  Pipes that freeze most frequently are those that are exposed to severe cold, such as outdoor hose bibs, swimming pool supply lines, water sprinkler lines and water supply pipes in unheated interior areas like basements and crawl spaces, attics, garages and kitchen cabinets.  Pipes that run against exterior walls that have little or no insulation are also subject to freezing.

Preventing Frozen Pipes

Before the onset of cold weather, prevent freezing of water supply lines and pipes by following these recommendations:

  • Drain water from swimming pool and water sprinkler supply lines following manufacturer’s or installer’s directions. Do not put antifreeze in these lines unless directed.  Antifreeze is environmentally harmful and is dangerous to humans, pets, wildlife and landscaping.
  • Remove, drain and store hoses used outdoors during warmer months.  Close inside valves supplying outdoor hose bibs and open the outside hose bibs to allow water to drain.  Keep the outside valve open so that any water remaining in the pipe can expand without causing the pipe to break.
  • Check around the home for other areas where water supply lines are located in unheated areas.  Look in the basement, crawl space, attic, garage and under kitchen and bathroom cabinets.  Both hot and cold water pipes in these areas should be insulated.
  • Consider installing specific products made to insulate pipes such as “pipe sleeves” or UL-listed “heat tape,” “heat cable” or similar materials on exposed water pipes.  Newspaper can provide some degree of insulation and protection to exposed pipes.  Even one fourth inch of newspaper can provide significant protection in areas that usually do not have frequent or prolonged temperatures below freezing.

During Cold Weather, Take Preventative Action

  • Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.
  • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing (be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals out of reach for children).
  • 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.
  • Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature during the day and at night.  By temporarily suspending the use of lower nighttime temperatures, you may incur a higher heating bill but you can prevent a costly repair job if pipes freeze and burst.
  • If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat set to a temperature no lower than 55° F.

To Thaw Frozen Pipes

  • If you turn on a faucet and only a trickle comes out, suspect a frozen pipe.  Likely places for frozen pipes include against exterior walls or where your water service enters your home through the foundation.
  • Keep the faucet open.  As you treat the frozen pipe and the ice begins to melt, water will begin to flow freely.  Running water through the pipe will help melt ice as well.
  • Apply heat to the section of pipe using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, an electric hair dryer, a portable space heater (kept away from flammable materials) or by wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water.  Never use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove or other open flame devices.
  • Apply heat until full water pressure is restored.  If you are unable to locate or access the frozen area or if you are not able to thaw the pipe, call a licensed plumber right away.
  • Check all other faucets in your home to find out if you have additional frozen pipes.  If one pipe freezes, others may have froze as well.
  • If damage has occurred to your property, be sure to contact a professional restoration crew such as Dryco Restoration Services as soon as possible to avoid further damage.  Dryco Restoration 24/7 Emergency Service (218) 628-6101

Future Protection

  • Consider relocating exposed pipes to provide increased protection.
  • Add insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces.  Insulation will maintain higher temperatures in these areas.
  • For more information, please contact a licensed plumber or building professional such as Dryco, Inc. at (218) 628-6101.


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