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Cold as Ice: Read this Before You Try to Unfreeze Pipes on Your Own


Read this Before You Try to Unfreeze Pipes on Your Own

One of the biggest dangers to your home during the winter is busted water pipes. Water damage is extremely costly and difficult to clean up.

While there is nothing you can do about the weather, there are steps you can take to help prevent pipes from freezing. They are not foolproof, however, so there are also ways to unfreeze pipes if it gets that far.

Read on for more information on frozen water pipes.

How It Happens

When water freezes, it expands. This creates pressure against the pipes that run the plumbing through your home. Pipes made from any construction — plastic, steel or copper — can freeze during extreme cold and high wind chills.

Eventually, that pressure can create a leak at a joint or even cause a crack in the pipe itself. Either of these will send water dripping, spurting, or even flowing into your home.

Signs of Frozen Pipes

If the water pressure starts slowing down during the winter, there is a good chance a pipe is frozen or freezing up.

Exposed or uninsulated pipes are the greatest risk. Lines to sprinkler systems, pipes in the attic or basement and even in some garages are prone to freezing.

If the water pipe is covered in what looks like a light frost, that is an indicator that it is frozen. Another sign is when there is no water coming out of your faucets when turned or, or a toilet that does not fill back up after being flushed.

How to Thaw

If the pipes are still frozen, you may have not experienced much water damage just yet. Once the thawing begins, water could start to gush out. The water needs to be shut off. Be sure you know where this valve is before an emergency strikes.

You can do it to just the section that is affected by the frozen pipe, or the entire house depending on the situation. If you do shut it off to the entire house, open a few faucets. This release will reduce the pressure for all the lines, including the one that is frozen.

It is a good idea to have towels nearby or another way to catch and clean up any water that may flow out.

There are several ways that frozen pipes can be thawed. A space heater can be placed nearby, or even a heat lamp. A hairdryer can also be used. You can even purchase heated tape that is applied directly onto the pipe and is controlled with a thermostat.

Another option is to wrap them in warm towels. You can lay the towels over the pipes, and then while wearing gloves, pour boiling water over the towels.

You should never use a propane torch, or open flame, to thaw pipes.

If you have ever wondered what should never go down the drain, here is the list.

When You Can’t Unfreeze Pipes

Sometimes you just don’t catch it in time, and the pipes burst and send water everywhere. As soon as you notice this, cut off the water to the house.

Your next step should be to call a plumber.

You should attempt to remove as much water as possible. A wet/dry vacuum is a great tool to use and does a better job than just a mop or towels. Depending on how long the water has been around, it is also a good idea to use a dehumidifier to control any mildew or mold that might creep in.

If there is much damage, or if you are unsure as to the extent, the agent for your home insurance coverage should be brought in. Most policies cover this kind of event.

When you have a clogged drain and it’s not the ice, here are ways to fix the problem.


Before the cold weather sets in, here are some steps to help winterize your pipes. A few preventative measures can go a long way to keep water damage out of your home.

You should wrap the pipes with insulation. If you have cracks in the walls, use caulk to seal them to keep cold air out.

For outdoor valves, disconnect all water hoses. If the valve opens into the home, disconnect that, but leave the outdoor one open so it can drain outside.

For any pipes located in the kitchen or bath area, leaving the cabinet doors open on an extremely cold day can help. The heat from the home can circulate inside and help keep the pipes warmer. Doors under sinks are especially important to crack open.

It is helpful to turn your faucets on to leave a small amount of water dripping. This should be done to both indoor and outdoor faucets. This keeps the water moving along and it is harder to freeze. A good rule of thumb is 5-6 drips per minute.

If you are concerned about pipes in a building that is not inhabited, then you will need to make sure the heat stays on. It should be set to at least 55 degrees during frigid weather.

Even within your home, it is a good idea to keep the house at a consistent heated temperature. It may increase your bill for a couple of cold months, but preventing a huge problem and mess with burst pipes is definitely worth it.

Keep It Warm and Dry

We all want the water in our homes to flow freely. Water is an essential part of our daily lives. Water damage is also one of the most costly repairs to make, and this doesn’t even count the mess involved.

There are several steps listed above that can go a long way to making sure your pipes stay intact and warm. You will never have to worry about how to unfreeze pipes if they never get in that condition.

In the unfortunate event that it happens anyway, there are still measures you can take to try and thaw out the pipes before they burst.

However, if everything you have tried has been unsuccessful and you need some professional help, please reach out.

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