The pipes that flow throughout a house, condo, or apartment building carry hot and cold water to the various sinks, showers, tubs, and appliances. When this happens, a block of ice begins to form in the water line. This can reduce the water pressure or even create a watertight seal that prevents water from flowing to the faucet.
Additionally, when the water freezes, it expands. This expansion can damage pipes, causing leaks or even flooding. Use this guide to learn how to thaw frozen pipes in order to prevent lasting damage to your pipes and restore the flow of water throughout your home.
How to Identify Frozen Pipes
There are several signs that might indicate you have a frozen water pipe, including a reduction in water pressure, leaks, and no water coming from the faucets. How to Thaw Frozen Pipes
Once you have located the frozen pipe, you’ll need to thaw it out gradually over about 30 to 60 minutes. Do not use an open flame to thaw pipes. The flame can cause damage to the surrounding material and pose a risk to the entire home. Additionally, plastic water lines will melt when exposed to fire. Instead, follow these steps to learn how to thaw frozen pipes.
What You Need
Step 1: Turn On Faucet
Head to the nearest affected faucet and turn it on. Even a small amount of water actively running through the faucet should be enough to prevent the pipe from freezing completely. Before you can thaw out the pipe, you will need to gain access by cutting a hole in the drywall or ceiling. Not only will this allow you to apply heat directly to the pipe, but it is also necessary to identify why the pipe is freezing.
Step 3: Apply Heat
In order to thaw a pipe without damaging it, you will need to gradually apply heat to the affected area. There are several methods you can try, including a hair dryer, heat tape, or a space heater. You can also attempt to thaw out the pipe by simply turning up the heat in the home, but this will take much longer than one of the previously mentioned methods.
If you choose to use heat tape, wrap the tape around the affected area of the pipe, then plug it in to begin heating the pipe. When the pipe begins to thaw, water will start flowing at a faster rate through the open faucet.
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Step 4: Check for Leaks
A burst pipe is immediately noticeable because water will be flooding into your home, but a smaller leak might go unnoticed if you don’t take the time to look for it. After thawing the water line, use a rag, cloth, or paper towel to wipe the pipe down and inspect it for signs of damage or leaks.
Step 5: Call a Plumber
Use towels, a mop, or a wet/dry vacuum to clean up any water as soon as possible to prevent water damage and the formation of mold and mildew. Depending on the severity of the flood, you may need to dispose of water-damaged items and furniture.
How to Prevent Pipes from Freezing
There are simple, affordable steps you can take to prevent pipes from freezing in the future. For instance, if the outer wall or basement doesn’t have insulation, it’s a good idea to purchase and install insulation.
Adding pipe insulation to your water lines is another great way to protect a pipe from freezing in the winter and from forming condensation in the summer. You can also wrap the pipe with heat tape. This product heats the pipe with a wire that runs through the tape. Keep in mind that you will need to plug the tape in before it will provide heat.