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Village Plumbing Guide: How to Thaw a Frozen Pipe

When the temperature plummets, it’s important that you are mindful of your piping. When pipes freeze and burst it can lead to unimaginable structural damage. It may seem like common sense but knowing what signs to look out for when frost overtakes your water supply lines is helpful. Even more so, knowing how to properly thaw a frozen pipe might save you costly repairs

Water is unique in that when it freezes, it expands, putting a great deal of pressure on a pipe or anything else containing it. Pipes that are most vulnerable to freezing include:

  • Outdoor pipes, like water sprinkler lines, pipes supplying swimming pools, and outdoor hose bibs.
  • Water supply pipes not in conditioned areas, like those in your basement, crawl space, or attic. 
  • Any pipe installed along an exterior wall and that hasn’t been insulated.

How to Thaw a Frozen Pipe

Step 1: Gather the tools and materials you’ll need to get your pipe unfrozen. They include a 5-gallon bucket so you can collect the water that melts and/or leaks in case the ice has cracked the pipe. It will also collect unfrozen water that may flow out. It’s also a good idea to have towels and a mop to clean things up. Next, you need a heating source. A space heater may work or you can use any item that will direct or apply heat to the frozen area.

Step 2: The next step may be the most difficult. Locating the frozen pipe will prove challenging. One way of doing this is turning on all of the faucets in the house and figuring out what faucet isn’t operating correctly. Once you locate which area of the home doesn’t have running water, trace the plumbing lines back as they travel from the water fixture. Typically, you can access your piping in the basement, crawl space, or on the sides of the house. Grip the pipe and feel if it is unusually cold or the pipe has frost on it. 

Step 3: Once you have found and confirmed the frozen pipe/pipes, go to your home’s main water supply valve. Turn it clockwise until it is in the “off” position before opening all sink faucets or tub spouts in an attempt to drain the system’s remaining water. Flush toilets after doing so too. Keep a bucket, mop, and towels handy for cleaning up. 

Step 4: Now for the easy part… Get creative and apply heat to the pipe or pipes that are likely frozen. Homeowners have been known to use hair dryers, heating pads, or hot compresses. Regardless of what heat source you choose to use, it all boils down to technique. Always start heating near an exit point, such as a kitchen or bathroom. The steam that comes out of the pipe helps release any ice trapped inside. Begin inching your way towards where you want hot water to flow once thawed. 

Step 5: Once you feel as if you have thawed the frost and icy insides of your piping, return to your home’s water supply and turn the main valve on again, but only partially. Return to the piping in question and visually inspect for any leaks or cracks in the piping. If you do notice any significant damage or your water isn’t turning back on, it’s time to call a professional plumber. Remember to always choose a licensed plumber that has a solid history of quality service. 

How to Prevent a Frozen Pipe

 

You can also take steps to avoid having a frozen pipe in the future. Insulating pipes in particularly cold places, like basements, garages, attics, or crawl spaces, can keep them above the freezing point even during extremely cold weather. Another option is to apply heat tape. It uses electricity to provide warmth directly to exposed pipes to prevent them from freezing. If your sink pipes are prone to freezing up, you can simply open the cabinet doors under your sink to warm things up so ice doesn’t form.

Contact the Professionals at Village Plumbing

Whether you need preventative plumbing services before the holidays, or you’re faced with a severe emergency plumbing situation like a frozen pipe, the pro plumbers at Village Plumbing can help! We can be there day or night to handle any plumbing emergencies when you need us the most. Contact one of our customer service representatives today: 713-678-0483

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