Frozen Pipes

Winter is on its way, which means you have some maintenance to do around your home to prepare for the colder weather. Frozen pipes can burst and become one of the most expensive home disasters you can deal with. The damages caused by frozen water pipes can be catastrophic. Just one burst pipe in a home running at 4-8 gallons a minute from a burst pipe can do tens of thousands of dollars damage in a manner matter of minutes. For a burst to happen, the water super cools a couple of degrees lower than freezing in the pipe causing ice to form. A frozen pipe, if it does ever occur. can cause pressure to builds up in excess of 3000psi! This excessive pressure splits the pipe that causes the eventually water damage after the thaw.

Preventing Frozen Pipes: What to Do

  • Allow a small trickle of cold water to run from your faucet. This will keep water moving in your pipes, preventing freezing.
  • Open under-sink cabinet doors to keep warm room air circulating around pipes.
  • Use a small fan to help circulate air under your cabinets
  • External openings such as basement doors, windows and crawl spaces should be sealed with weather stripping, caulk and sealant.
  • Insulate external and exposed pipes with pipe insulation.
  • Take the time before the first freeze of the season to drain out the sprinkler system. Disconnect, drain and store all hoses and exterior water spigot.

Other ways to prevent pipes from freezing include:

  • Sealing and insulating your attic
  • Replacing drafty windows and doors
  • Installing storm windows and protective plastic coverings
  • Sealing the ductwork

How to Thaw Frozen Pipes

If there is no water flowing from your faucets at all, you most likely have frozen or burst pipes. Many times, the exterior of the pipe will be frozen as well. If you know that you have a frozen pipe, take these measures to begin the thawing process.

  • Turn off the “Main” water valve to the house and open a faucet to allow melted water to flow through. Open the lowest hot and cold faucets in your home, i.e, basement laundry tray. Be aware that if the water to your house is shut off, it may also turn off any fire protection system you may have.
  • Wrap towels soaked in warm water around the pipes or purchase electric pipe warmers.
  • DO NOT use any open flame or electric heater directly to the piping as this could cause electrocution.

PlatoPlumbing does not recommend sending a plumber to thaw out piping as it is very time consuming and costly to the client. Heat and patience is the best way to get the pipes to thaw. We do however recommend that if a freeze occurs, find the source and correct it so it will not happen again. If you were lucky enough that it did not burst the first time, you may not be so lucky the next time. The pipe(s) that froze may already be fatigued so the next time they may burst.

Contact PlatoPlumbing for information on how to prevent freezing in the future, options include insulation and possible relocation of water pipes away from windows and exterior walls.