Why Do Pipes Freeze and What to Do About Them

Pipes Freeze in the Winter; Deal with That Fact

If you recall your basic Chemistry 101, water is a unique element that boils when heated and freezes at cold and high temperatures. When it freezes, it expands. Take note of a can with a cover filled with water and left in the freezer for some time. Observe that the can becomes distorted and misshaped. This is the same thing that happens with water pipes.  Plumbing pipes that run outside the house have a greater chance of getting frozen. While at times it can cause minor annoyances like slow running water from the spigot, there exists the possibility that the pipe can split or be damaged at the fittings.

How to Handle a Frozen Pipe

First determine how much of the pipe is blocked off, or damaged. Go around your home and turn on faucets to determine the location of the damaged pipe. Check to make sure if the hot water is flowing. Once you’ve located the frozen or damaged pipe, see if there is any serious leakage. Open the faucet nearest it so as to thaw it out. If the damage is really severe, stop here and call a plumbing service as this needs the repair of a professional. If the pipe is just frozen and is not damaged, you can thaw it out using the following methods:

  • You can start off by putting some hot towels around or under the pipe and see if the water will start flowing easily.
  • If the freezing is severe, you can wrap an electric heating pad around the pipe.
  • You can use a hair dryer.
  • Set up a portable room heater, but keep away flammable objects.

Even Under Extreme Circumstances, Never Use the Following:

  • Blowtorch
  • Propane or kerosene heaters
  • Charcoal stove
  • Any open flame device

Prevention is Still the Best Solution

As they say, the best solution will always be prevention since an ounce of prevention is much better than a pound of cure. Prepare for prevention in advance during the summer so your pipes can adjust during the fall. Basements, crawl spaces, underneath cabinets, attics, and the garage should be completely insulated. Also, when insulating water pipes, make sure to insulate both the hot and cold pipes. You can use “heat tape” or similar products on very hard to reach areas.