Winter weather can wreak havoc on your home – with one of the most common issues being frozen pipes. Frozen pipes can lead to extensive damage if they aren’t thawed out in a timely manner.
It can be a very confusing time for an unprepared homeowner, so we’ve put together a short guide at Mister Plumber to help you understand what causes frozen pipes and how to prevent them in the first place.
If you’d like an immediate professional opinion on a plumbing issue, call us at 416 939 1530 or shoot us a message!
Why frozen pipes are a serious problem
Frozen pipes can cause a variety of issues in your home. Here’s a list of the most pressing risks:
- Frozen water expands and can cause pipes to crack or burst, leading to leaks, flooding, and water damage to your home.
- Burst pipes can result in costly repairs and restoration work.
- Frozen pipes can disrupt your access to water, making it difficult or impossible to use certain fixtures or appliances until the blockage is cleared.
- During the winter months, consistently low temperatures increase the likelihood of frozen pipes, making it important to take preventative measures.
- In areas with harsh winters, frozen pipes can be a frequent and ongoing problem, requiring ongoing attention and care.
Knowing how to prevent and thaw frozen pipes can save you time, money, and inconvenience, making it important to be prepared and informed.
What causes frozen pipes?
Well, cold temperature… duh. Sure, that’s the reason. But really, frozen pipes occur when the temperature of the water inside your pipes drops below freezing, causing it to turn solid – and that can be caused by a number of factors:
- Insufficient insulation: Pipes that are not properly insulated or that are located in unheated areas of the home are more susceptible to freezing. It’s like going outside without a jacket in the middle of winter – you’re going to feel the cold!
- Poor placement of pipes: Pipes that are located near exterior walls, in unheated crawl spaces, or in other areas that are exposed to cold air are more likely to freeze. It’s like standing outside on a windy day – the cold air is going to hit you harder in certain spots.
- Thermostat settings: If you set your thermostat too low during the winter, you may be putting your pipes at risk of freezing. It’s like turning down the heat in your home when it’s freezing outside – your pipes are not going to be very happy about it!
- Drafts: Cold air drafts from windows, doors, and other sources can cause the temperature to drop in areas where pipes are located, increasing the risk of freezing. It’s like feeling a draft in your home – you know that cold air is going to cause problems somewhere!
- Neglected maintenance: Pipes that are not properly maintained, such as those with leaks or cracks, may be more prone to freezing. It’s like not taking care of your car – eventually, something is going to break down.
By being aware of these potential causes of frozen pipes and taking steps to prevent freezing, homeowners can avoid the inconvenience and expense of dealing with frozen pipes and the damage they can cause.
Signs of frozen pipes
Before your pipes actually freeze, there are a few signs that can indicate they may be at risk. Here’s what to look out for as a homeowner:
- No water flow: If you turn on a faucet and no water comes out, it could be a sign that the pipe leading to that fixture is frozen.
- Strange odors: If you detect an unusual smell coming from your faucets or drains, it could indicate a blockage in your pipes, which can be caused by frozen water or other debris.
- Frost on pipes: Check your pipes for frost or condensation, as this is a common sign of a frozen pipe.
- Strange noises: Gurgling or bubbling sounds coming from your pipes could be a sign of a blockage, which can be caused by frozen water or other debris.
- Low water pressure: If you’re experiencing lower than usual water pressure, it could be a sign that there’s a blockage in your pipes, which can be caused by frozen water or other debris.
- Foul smells: A strange, foul smell coming from your drains or faucets could be an indication that there’s a blockage in your pipes, which can be caused by frozen water or other debris.
By being aware of these signs, you can quickly identify and address frozen pipes before they cause damage to your home. If you suspect that your pipes are frozen, it’s important to act quickly to prevent damage and restore water flow.
Do frozen pipes always burst?
No, frozen pipes don’t always burst. If the ice blockage is small or if there is enough space for the water to expand within the pipe, the pipe may be able to withstand the pressure from the frozen water. However, if the blockage is large, or if the pipe is already weak, old, or damaged, the pressure from the expanding ice can cause the pipe to crack or even burst.
Even if a frozen pipe doesn’t burst, it can still be a problem. A frozen pipe can prevent water from flowing through the pipes, which can result in a lack of water or low water pressure in the affected area. Plus, if the pipe remains frozen for too long, it can damage the pipe and increase the risk of bursting in the future. So it’s really important to take steps to prevent frozen pipes and to address any issues as soon as possible to avoid more serious problems down the line.
Will frozen pipes thaw on their own?
Frozen pipes can sometimes thaw on their own, but it’s not a guaranteed outcome. The amount of time it takes for a frozen pipe to thaw naturally will depend on a number of factors, such as the severity of the freeze, the outside temperature, and the length of the frozen section of the pipe.
In some cases, a small section of the pipe may thaw on its own as temperatures rise, allowing water to flow through the pipe once again. However, if the freeze is severe or if the entire pipe is frozen, it’s unlikely that the pipe will thaw on its own without intervention.
If you suspect that your pipes are frozen, it’s important to take action to thaw them as soon as possible to prevent damage and restore water flow.
We’ll dive into this in the following sections.
How to find where frozen pipes are frozen
Finding a frozen pipe can be tricky. If you suspect that your pipes are frozen and need to be thawed, the first step is to find out where the freeze is occurring.
- Turn on your faucets: Start by turning on all of your faucets to see if any of them have no water flow or only a trickle. This is a good sign that the pipe leading to that fixture is frozen.
- Check for frost or condensation: Check any exposed pipes for frost or condensation. This is a common sign of a frozen pipe.
- Inspect the pipes: Look for any visible signs of damage to your pipes, such as cracks or bulges. This can also be an indication that the pipe is frozen and has expanded due to the pressure from the ice.
- Use a thermal imaging camera: If you have a thermal imaging camera or can borrow one, use it to scan your walls, ceilings, and floors. A frozen pipe will often cause a temperature difference in the area where it’s located, making it easier to identify.
- Call a plumber: If you’re having trouble locating the frozen pipe or if you’re not comfortable attempting to thaw it yourself, it’s always a good idea to call a licensed plumber. A professional plumber will have the tools and expertise to locate and thaw the frozen pipe safely and effectively.
Remember, it’s important to take steps to thaw a frozen pipe as soon as possible to prevent damage and restore water flow to your home. By following these tips and seeking the help of a professional plumber when needed, you can locate and thaw a frozen pipe quickly and effectively.
How to thaw frozen pipes as a homeowner
Once you’ve located the frozen pipe, the next step is to thaw it. This can be done safely and effectively with some basic tools and supplies.
- Find the frozen pipe: Use the tips mentioned earlier to locate the frozen pipe. Check all of your faucets to see which ones aren’t working, and look for any signs of frost or damage on your pipes.
- Turn off the water supply: Before you start thawing the pipe, be sure to turn off the water supply to the affected area to avoid any potential flooding.
- Open faucets: Once the water is turned off, open the faucets connected to the frozen pipe. This will help reduce pressure and allow the water to flow more easily once it’s thawed.
- Use a hair dryer, heat lamp, space heater, or heating pad to apply gentle but direct heat to the frozen section of the pipe. Just start at the end of the pipe closest to the faucet and work your way toward the frozen area.
- Use hot towels: Wrapping hot, damp towels around the frozen pipe is another option. This can help to slowly thaw the pipe and reduce the risk of cracking or bursting.
- Install heating tape: Heating tape is an effective way to thaw frozen pipes and can also be used to prevent future freezes. The tape consists of an electrical heating element that warms up when plugged in, helping to keep your pipes from freezing again.
- Be patient: Thawing a frozen pipe can take some time, especially if the freeze is severe. Don’t try to rush the process by using any kind of open flame, which can be dangerous.
By following these tips, you can safely thaw a frozen pipe and restore water flow to your home. Just remember to stay safe and call a professional plumber with the right tools and expertise if you’re unsure of what to do or if you run into any problems.
You can call Mister Plumber at 416 939 1530 or shoot us a message for help treating a frozen pipe.
Wait, what if my frozen pipes are underground?
How to thaw frozen pipes underground
Thawing a frozen pipe that’s underground can be a bit more challenging, so our first recommendation would be to get in touch with a plumber. But, it’s still possible to do so. Here are some general steps you can take to thaw a frozen pipe that’s underground:
- Locate the frozen area: Start by identifying the area where the pipe is frozen. This may require some guesswork, but you can look for areas where the ground is particularly wet, where the snow is melted, or where the grass is greener.
- Turn off the water supply: Before you begin, turn off the water supply to the affected area to prevent flooding.
- Apply heat: One of the most effective ways to thaw an underground pipe is to apply heat directly to the frozen area. You can use a heating pad, heat tape, or a portable heater to warm up the area. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and safety guidelines when using these tools.
- Dig a hole: If you’re unable to locate the frozen area, you may need to dig a hole near the pipe to gain access to it. Be sure to call your utility company before you dig to avoid damaging any underground utilities.
- Be patient: Thawing an underground pipe can take time, especially if the freeze is severe. Be patient and monitor the progress of the thawing process.
By following these steps, you can safely and effectively thaw an underground frozen pipe and restore water flow to your home. If you’re unable to locate the frozen area, if the thawing process is taking too long, or if the pipe has already burst, it’s important to call a licensed plumber.
How do I prevent frozen pipes from happening again?
Preventing pipes from freezing in the future is a much easier and less expensive process than thawing them. Here are some simple tips to help you prevent frozen pipes in your home:
- Keep your home heated: Make sure that your home is heated to at least 13º Celsius (55º Fahrenheit), even if you’re leaving for an extended period of time. This will help to keep your pipes from freezing.
- Insulate pipes: Pipes that are located in unheated areas, such as attics, basements, or crawl spaces, are particularly susceptible to freezing. Insulating these pipes with foam pipe insulation can help to keep them from freezing.
- Seal drafts: Check for drafts around windows and doors, and seal them with weatherstripping or caulk to help keep cold air from entering your home and potentially freezing your pipes.
- Keep cabinet doors open: If you have pipes that run through cabinets, open the doors to allow warm air to circulate around the pipes. This will help to keep the pipes from freezing.
- Let faucets drip: Allowing faucets to drip slightly can help to relieve pressure in the pipes and prevent them from freezing. This is particularly effective for faucets that are located on exterior walls.
- Disconnect outdoor hoses: Make sure to disconnect any outdoor hoses and drain the water from the pipes. This will help to prevent water from freezing and potentially damaging your pipes.
Call Mister Plumber for your frozen pipe issues
Frozen pipes can cause serious damage to your home and be costly to repair. But hopefully, this complete guide to frozen pipes has helped to equip you with the knowledge and tools you need to prevent, thaw, and repair frozen pipes in your home.
But if you’re still having trouble with frozen pipes or need help from a professional plumber, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Mister Plumber! Our team of experienced plumbing professionals has been helping homeowners with frozen pipe treatment and prevention for over 20 years. We can help you identify the source of your frozen pipe problem, thaw it safely, and provide tips on how to prevent frozen pipes from occurring in the future.
Call us at 416 939 1530 or shoot us a message today!