Winter is coming, and you are probably having chills already, no matter how great your heating system is.
Every homeowner frightens their water pipes would freeze as soon as the temperature drops.
Yet, this may not be the end of inconveniences, as the pressure gathering in there can cause your pipes to burst.
This takes us to a question – How to thaw frozen pipes?
Down below, we will answer this, but a couple of extra FAQ questions that will prepare you for the upcoming winter and prevent any accidents in your home.
How can you tell your pipes have frozen?
Imagine the following situation.
You are getting ready for work, it is early, and seemingly freezing cold outside.
Well, you have no other choice than to move on with the routine, walking into your bathroom.
A grumpy face in the mirror makes things even worse, and you are having a proper, warm wash would fix things.
The next second, you are turning on the faucet, and what happens?
Not a single drop is coming out of it!
Even if the water is trickling out slowly, you can be almost 100% your pipes have frozen.
Keep calm and inspect the situation.
The main thing to do now is to determine whether the pipe has ruptured or not.
If everything points out to the first scenario, you have no other options than to call a professional plumber.
On the other hand, if you were a bit lucky, and the pipe is still in whole, you can continue with reading our guide on how to thaw a frozen pipe.
What to Do to Prevent your Pipe from Rupturing
Just because the pipe hasn’t ruptured yet, it doesn’t mean it won’t at all.
You still have time to fix things but have to act accordingly.
Here is what to do to thaw your pipe:
Is the issue with the pipe isolated or more of a general kind?
First things first – you want to determine what you are working with.
In order to define the problem you are dealing with, you should turn on every single faucet in your home – no exceptions.
For this task, you may need some help from a family member or a friend, who would check half of the faucets, while you are checking on the other half.
Our Ultimate Guide on How to Thaw Frozen Pipes
If water is flowing out of all faucets, with one exception, that means your problem is fixable and we will guide you through the right steps.
However, if more than one faucets are not working, that is a problem of another nature, not the frozen pipe issue.
In this case, you can’t do anything but to call a plumber to perform the task for you.
- Where the frozen portion is?
Now that you have determined the issue, it is about time to explore it on a deeper level.
When we say deeper, we truly mean it.
So, when a pipe freezes, it usually freezes on a couple of critical points.
For instance, if there is a portion of the pipe that is badly or not at all isolated, you can expect the ice to block it right there.
Also, it may happen a portion of the uninsulated pipe is located in the most chilly place in your home, basement, attic, or garage.
Surprisingly, pipes freeze underneath your kitchen or bathroom cabinets.
The best way to detect the frozen portion is to feel along the pipe.
At a certain point, you will come to the frozen part of it, of course, if the pipe is accessible.
- Open the corresponding faucet
Once you detected the paint point of your pipe, open the corresponding faucet.
That means – if your cold water line is frozen, open the cold water tap, and if your hot water line is frozen, open the hot water tap, as simple as that.
Soon, you will notice the frozen section of the pipe begins to melt.
Some amount of water will flow through.
This is a sign the built-up pressure in the pipe starts alleviating, which will cause the ice within to melt.
- Apply some heat to the frozen portion
Even though opening the corresponding faucet will release some pressure from the pipe, some amount of it will stay in there for a bit longer.
The key to releasing the excessive pressure from within is to, guess what? That’s right – melt the ice completely.
There are two ways on how to apply heat to the frozen section of the pipe. Stay with us to learn how to do this.
Yet, note that there is one way only to do this the right way.
When applying heat, always start from the faucet, then moving towards the frozen portion.
This is one of the essential steps when thawing frozen pipes, as you want to let melted ice to come out to the faucet.
3 Ways of Applying Heat to the Accessible Frozen Pipe
- Soak a couple of old towels into boiling hot water. You will know how many towels you need based on the size of the frozen portion. If there is a massive ice build-up in there, maybe you would have to change the towels a couple of times until the ice melts. Continue with wrapping the pipe with towels until the faucet is running smoothly again. Note: When working with hot towels, make sure not to take them with bare hands. Put your rubber gloves on to prevent any burns on your skin.
- You are probably in a room where there is an electrical outlet. If so, you can warm the pipe with a hairdryer. Plug in the dryer in the electrical outlet and turn it to the highest setting. Move your hand along the pipe, distributing heat across the pipe evenly. You can use a small portable heater or a heat lamp instead of a hair dryer. Note: When the ice build-up within the pipe is too thick, it will take more time to thaw it.
- Electric heat tape is your friend as well. Wrap it around the frozen section and plug the tape into a grounded electrical socket. This will prevent eventual electrical shock.
How to Thaw Enclosed Pipes
If you are dealing with a more complex issue and you can’t reach the frozen pipe easily, these are the options to choose from:
- Increase the temperature in your home
Probably the easiest way on how to thaw enclosed pipes is to turn the heat in your property.
Sometimes, all you need to do is to turn the thermostat up, and the ice blockages will disappear as if they were never there.
However, this applies to smaller blockages only.
- Use an infrared lamp
When the blockage is deeper in the pipe and turning the thermostat up doesn’t seem to help, an infrared lamp may come up as a solution.
Place it as close to the blocked portion in the wall. Infrared lamps give off a significant amount of heat, which should be just enough to penetrate the wall and defrost the pipe.
- Cut out a section of the wall
Even though this is the most invasive method when thawing frozen pipes, sometimes you would have no other choice.
Of course, you can always call a plumber, but if you are comfortable with cutting out a small section, you thaw the frozen pipe yourself.
Once you do this, any of the above-mentioned techniques will do, as you will have direct access to the pipe.
Always remember this – When applying heat, no matter of the technique you are using, to a frozen pipe, the first thing you should pay attention to is not to use a blowtorch or a propane torch. Using it will make the water within the pipe to boil and, as you wouldn’t know whether all the ice is gone, resulting in a massive explosion.
The second thing to be careful about is using a heating device with an open flame.
You should never, ever do so, as otherwise, you would expose yourself to combustion fumes, which are poisonous.
What to Do Once the Pipe Begins to Thaw?
As soon as the water starts flowing out of your faucet, you will know you did the right job.
Yet, there are a few steps more to undertake to make sure everything is okay.
First, leave the faucet running for a couple of minutes.
This will clear off any ice left on the inside.
Then, turn the faucet off and slide your hand along the pipe.
Even though this is not a common scenario, sometimes pipes start leaking after being frozen.
In this case, go and turn off the main water valve in your home.
Now, you have two solutions – to either patch the pipe or to replace it completely.
A short-term solution for your leaking pipe is to wrap some waterproof tape around it.
If you have a hardware store somewhere in the neighborhood, drop by and get yourself a patch kit for plumbing leaks.
More information about how to fix a leaky pipe can be found here.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the main reasons pipes freeze?
Pipe freezing is a common problem.
Every property faces certain issues during the winter months, but freezing pipes can make a real mess in your home. In the worst case, pipes will burst due to the expanding of water.
Most frequent reasons why pipes freeze are:
- If your pipes are exposed to severe cold, you can expect some of them to freeze during winter, even a couple of times during the season. Hose bibs, water sprinklers, and swimming pool supply lines are prone to freezing more than other types of pipes.
- Sometimes, the only solution for your exposed pipes is to relocate them. Take this into account, but double-check the steps you should undertake in this situation.
- Pipes located in basements, attics, crawl spaces, and cabinets – unheated interior areas, freeze from time to time as well.
- Pipes with no insulation, installed against your exterior walls, may be critical during the winter months.
How do I protect my pipes from freezing?
If you want to outsmart cold weather this year, make sure to follow our recommendations:
- Don’t put antifreeze in your water sprinkler supply lines and swimming pool supply lines. Antifreeze is harmful to pets, humans, and the environment.
- Hoses used outdoors, just like the ones we mentioned above, are best to store inside during winter. Yet, make sure to leave the outside valve open, as this is a way out for any water remaining in there to flow out, instead of causing the pipe to burst.
- Install heat tapes, heat cables, and pipe sleeves (specific products intended for pipe insulation), to prevent your pipes from being exposed to low temperatures.
- If you are a bit tight on a budget, wrap some newspaper around the pipes
- Keep the doors on your garage and basement closed.
- Let the warm air into your cabinets by leaving them open.
- When traveling, make sure not to set the thermostat to about 55 Fahrenheit.
- Go for the same temperature even when you are home, and don’t change it during day or night.
How to Thaw Frozen Pipes Recap
Even a bit of ice in your pipe can cause you headaches.
Yet, just as we explained, you can take plenty of steps to thaw the frozen pipe and prevent damage to your property.
We would recommend starting with this task as soon as possible if you just noticed the issue.
The longer you wait – the more damage (very expensive to fix) can occur, such as pipe bursting.
We did our best to explain the whole unfreezing process in a straightforward and simplified way.
Now that you know how to thaw frozen pipes, make sure to double-check our advice on how to prevent this inconvenience in your home and save yourself time and money.