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How to Thaw Frozen Pipes

May 15, 2024

Do you suddenly have little to no running water during a cold snap? You may be dealing with frozen pipes. Pipes that are exposed to freezing temperatures without adequate insulation are especially vulnerable. Fortunately, you can often thaw frozen pipes on your own. Recognizing a frozen pipe and knowing what actions to take can drastically reduce the inconvenience of limited water access.

In this article we’ll cover:

  • Causes & signs of frozen pipes
  • Thawing frozen pipes: step-by-step guide
  • When to call in the professionals

Armed with the right information, you can swiftly address frozen pipes, restoring your water flow and preventing potential damage. Follow along for essential tips on handling frozen pipes and discerning when professional assistance is necessary.

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Causes & Signs of Frozen Pipes

Most of the time, water supply (and drainage) pipes are installed to avoid issues with freezing, but some pipes are still at risk without a little seasonal prevention. Pipes that are exposed to the outside elements are the most prone to freezing, especially when low temperatures are severe. Pipes that are tucked away close to the ground or next to an outside wall can also freeze if they're not properly insulated and if the interior temperature of your home is too low.

If your water isn't running or you notice it's coming out unevenly, this can be a sign you have a frozen pipe, especially if you notice the issue in just one or two faucets. If you see frozen condensation on the outside of an exposed water pipe, it usually indicates an area where the water within has frozen as well.

Thawing Frozen Pipes: Step-by-Step Guide

The difficulty of thawing frozen pipes depends on the location and accessibility of the pipes you're working with. Aside from this, thawing frozen pipes can be a simple project that takes around an hour to complete when you work through the following steps.

Step 1: Turn on Your Faucet

Before you begin, make sure to turn on any faucets impacted by the freeze. Sometimes the pipe hasn't frozen all the way through, and a steady trickle of water will help prevent it from freezing further while you work. This also relieves the pressure within the pipe, making it less likely the pipe will burst while thawing.

Step 2: Locate the Frozen Pipe

Use the impacted faucets to narrow down the possible location of your frozen pipe. If you have any pipe exposed outside, check if it's connected to the slow or dry faucets first. Look for signs of condensation or frost outside the pipe to confirm and pinpoint where the water is frozen.

Step 3: Expose the Pipe

Sometimes, the pipe will be within your walls or buried slightly below ground. If this is the case, you'll need to expose the pipe so you can work on it. This is done by digging a shallow trench to the pipe or cutting a hole in your wall.

Step 4: Apply Gradual Heat

Once you've identified the pipe and the frozen area within, it's time to warm it up. This can be done with a space heater, a hair dryer, or heat tape. Remember, the water must be thawed slowly to prevent pipe damage. This process should take anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes.

Step 5: Check for Leaks

Once you hear the water running again, check the area that was frozen for any damage or evidence of leaks before you close anything up.

When to Call in the Professionals

Although a licensed plumber isn't often needed to thaw frozen pipes, it's time to bring in the professionals if you see any leaks or obvious damage (such as a burst pipe). A licensed and trained plumber will repair the cracked or broken pipe while checking for any further leaks you may have missed. This will ensure that your home’s plumbing system remains in good working order, saving you headaches and repairs down the road.

Worried about freezing pipes? Trust Jon Wayne for expert prevention and damage remediation.

We've built our reputation on the promise that our plumbing services are performed with honesty and integrity in mind. Schedule a pipe repair and find out why our current and former customers have left us thousands of 5-star reviews. We offer some of the fastest response times and strongest customer protections in the state!

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