Tips for Preventing and Thawing Frozen Pipes

1 December 2021


Many households are scrambling for insulation and space heaters as winter approaches, but the plumbing pipes are one of the most crucial things to consider throughout the winterization process. Frozen pipes are one of the most dangerous and expensive problems when it comes to severe winter hazards to your property.

Why is pipe freezing a problem?

Water has the unconventional characteristic of expanding when it freezes. This expansion exerts enormous pressure on everything that contains it, such as metal or plastic pipes. Regardless of how strong a container is, expanding water can cause pipes to burst.

The pipes that freeze most often are:

  • Pipes that are prone to extreme cold, like outdoor hose bibs, swimming pool supply lines, and water sprinkler lines.
  • Water supply pipes in unheated inside areas like basements, attics, garages, or kitchen cabinets.
  • Pipes that run against outside walls that have little or no insulation.

How to protect pipes from freezing

Tips to protect your pipes from freezing

Stop pipes freezing before the winter weather arrives by following these guidelines:

  • Drain the water from the pool and sprinkler supply lines according to the manufacturer’s or installer’s instructions. Unless otherwise specified, do not use antifreeze in these lines. Antifreeze is damaging to the environment, as well as to humans, pets, wildlife, and gardening.
  • Hoses that have been used outside should be removed, drained, and stored. Close the interior valves that supply the hose bibs outside. Allow water to drain by opening the outside hose bibs. Keep the outside valve open to allow any remaining water in the pipe to expand without bursting it.
  • Attics, basements, and crawl spaces should all be insulated. Insulation will keep these areas at a higher temperature.
  • Look for other spots around the house where water supply lines are installed in unheated regions. Look under the kitchen and bathroom cupboards, as well as in the garage. In certain areas, both hot and cold water lines should be insulated.
  • Consider using UL-listed heat tape, heat cable, or similar materials to insulate exposed water pipes, such as a pipe sleeve. Newspapers can give some insulation and protection to exposed pipes – even a quarter-inch of newspaper can provide significant protection in locations where temperatures are rarely or never below freezing.
  • Consider moving exposed pipes for better protection against freezing.

Tips to protect your pipes before you go away

  • Set your home thermostat to minimum 55 degrees Fahrenheit (12 degrees C)
  • Request that a friend or neighbor check your residence on a daily basis to ensure that it is warm enough to avoid freezing.
  • Turn off and drain the water system ONLY if you have an isolation valve on your property. If you have a fire sprinkler system in your home, be aware that it will be deactivated when you turn off the water.

How to prevent frozen pipes

Tips to prevent frozen pipes in the house

  • If there are water supply lines in the garage, keep the garage doors closed.
  • Allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing by opening cabinet doors in the kitchen and bathroom. Make sure that any dangerous cleansers or home chemicals are kept out of reach of children.
  • Allow cold water to drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes while the temperature is really cold outside. Pipes can be kept from freezing by running water through them, even if it’s only a trickle.
  • During the day and at night, keep the thermostat at the same temperature. You may suffer a higher heating bill if you temporarily stop using lower nighttime temperatures, but you will avoid a considerably larger repair cost if pipes freeze and burst.
  • If you’re going away during the winter, keep your house warm by setting the thermostat to no less than 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

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How to thaw frozen pipes

It is critical to promptly thaw a frozen water pipe. It is, however, equally important to thaw the frozen pipe properly. Here are several tips for getting the water flowing and avoiding a burst pipe and a potentially destructive flood on your property.

Locate the frozen pipe

To thaw a frozen pipe, you need to figure out which pipe or pipes are frozen. Turn on the water faucets in your home. If no water or only a trickle emerges from the faucet, the pipe leading to it is most likely frozen. If one pipe freezes, there’s a good risk that others will as well.

You may be able to see the frozen piece of the pipe if it is exposed, such as pipes under sinks, in basements, or along the exterior of the house. Frozen pipes are often covered with frost or have a little bulging. If the obstruction is in a section of the pipe that you can see, you’ll have more alternatives for thawing it than if the frozen segment is hidden behind a wall.

Open the faucet

Before you start thawing a frozen pipe, make sure the faucet that the pipe feeds water into is open. Make sure both the hot and cold handles are open. Once you start to defrost the pipe, this will help reduce pressure in the system and allow the water to leave.

Where to begin the thawing process

Always start the thawing process at the faucet and work your way down to the block. The melting ice and steam will be able to escape through the open faucet as a result of this. If you begin the thawing process closer to the blockage, the melting ice may become trapped behind the blockage, raising pressure in the pipe and increasing the risk of it bursting.

Thawing exposed pipes

If the frozen pipe is in an easily accessible location, you have various alternatives for trying to thaw it. Continue to apply heat until the water escaping from the faucet has returned to its original strength. There are four different ways to defrost an exposed pipe:

  • Hair dryer: Using a hairdryer to thaw a pipe is one of the simplest methods. Simply turn on the dryer and direct the heat toward the pipe, starting at the end closest to the faucet. When using the device, take the necessary measures and prevent coming into contact with water, as with any electrical equipment.
  • Heat lamp or portable space heater: A heat lamp or a portable space heater can also be used to thaw a pipe. Place the device in such a way that the heat may reach the frozen pipe. This indirect heat can help defrost a pipe rapidly. Follow the device’s safety measures and precautions, and keep it away from water.
  • Hot towels: Another method for thawing a frozen pipe is to wrap it in towels that have been soaked in hot water. This may aid in the gradual thawing of the block.
  • Electrical heating tape: Applying electrical heating tape directly to the pipe is a final approach. The heat is distributed evenly throughout the pipe with this tape. You may buy electrical heating tape that you can plug in and disconnect as needed, or you can buy heating tape that automatically shuts off.

Thawing enclosed pipes

If the frozen pipe is in an area that is difficult to reach, you have three different options for thawing it:

  1. Increase the property’s temperature: You can try to thaw the frozen pipe by raising the property’s internal temperature. It’s possible that simply raising the temperature will be enough to melt the ice blockage.
  2. Infrared lamp: If you know where the frozen pipe is located in the wall, you can use an infrared lamp to try to thaw the blockage by positioning it in front of the piece of the wall where the pipe is located. The heat from the lamp might be able to get through the wall and defrost the pipe.
  3. Cut out a section of the wall: If you’re confident in your abilities, you can cut out the part of drywall in front of the frozen pipe to gain access to it. The enclosed pipe can then be thawed using one of the options outlined above.

Things to avoid

Never use an open flame, such as a propane torch, to defrost a pipe. This can cause pipe damage, or even a fire in your home.

If the pipe bursts

If a frozen water pipe bursts in your property, the first thing you should do is turn off the main water supply. This will stop more water from leaking into your home and causing damage. You should be aware of the location of the shut-off valves for each of your homes and for each unit. Smaller shut-off valves are frequently found near sinks and toilets, while the main shut-off valve is normally found near the water meter.

Call a professional

You should contact a plumber or other professional if you are unable to defrost the pipe, are unable to identify the frozen pipe, do not feel safe thawing a pipe yourself, or if a pipe explodes. They will be able to assist you with the issue.

Plomberie Pro-Drain can help with all of your plumbing requirements, including residential, business, and industrial. Whether you’re on the south shore or the north shore, our plumbers provide prompt, courteous, and customized service throughout the greater Montreal area and its surrounds. We’re here to help you solve your difficulties or complete your projects.

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