How to Unfreeze Frozen Pipes
It’s wintertime. It’s freezing. You turn on the tap but there’s no water coming out of it. What could be the problem? Alas, you realize, you are dealing with what every homeowner dreads: frozen water pipes. In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about how to unfreeze pipes safely on your own, how to prevent leaks from flooding your home, and when it’s time to call a professional plumber. Let’s get started!
Why Do Frozen Water Pipes Burst?
As the temperatures suddenly drop during winter, leftover water remaining freezes inside the pipe causing it to expand, increase pressure, and eventually result in a tiny leak, or worse, a full-blown burst pipe emergency.
This can be potentially dangerous because it can lead to unthinkable freak accidents when water comes to contact with electric wirings or outlets, putting you and your family’s safety at risk. When left unaddressed or done incorrectly, frozen water pipes can get busted and flood your entire apartment, soaking appliances, gadgets, furniture, books, and other possessions you hold dear. Water damage from bursting water pipes is one of the most common causes of a homeowner’s insurance claim. Lucky for you if you’ve got insurance but what if you don’t?
Which Water Pipes Are Prone to Freezing?
Some water pipes are more susceptible to freezing and getting clogged during the peak of winter. Below are some examples.
- Exterior water pipes – Outdoor temperature can go subzero. Without heating and proper insulation, water pipes fitted outside the house are the first ones to freeze.
- Pipes in the attic and basement – In some households, these rooms are merely used for storage and are therefore not equipped with adequate insulation and may not be receiving sufficient heating compared to other areas of the house.
Tell-Tale Signs That You Have Frozen Water Pipes
When the temperature dips to 32 degrees Fahrenheit or below, it’s time to be extra vigilant and inspect your property for frozen water pipes. Be sure to watch out for these red flags.
- Visible frosting or icicles forming on the water pipes
- There’s no water flowing out of your faucets
- The toilet’s water tank does not refill after flushing
- A strange smell that can be traced to your faucets or drain
How to Unfreeze Frozen Pipes
Before thawing your frozen water pipes, don’t forget to switch off the main water stop valve first. This is a preemptive measure to prevent the water from forcibly gushing out, bursting the pipes open, and extensively damaging your property. The manner of how to unfreeze pipes should be done swiftly and efficiently because in some cases, you can actually aggravate the situation.
Here are some thawing techniques that you can try.
- Crank up your heating thermostat. This is a good strategy since it can unfreeze even the hard-to-reach water pipes.
- For suspected frozen water pipes that you can have easy access to, for example, under the kitchen sink, soak towels in hot water and wrap them around the pipes.
- Improvise with a hairdryer. Switch the device on and aim the hot air at the part of the frozen water pipe nearest to the faucet. Be extra careful and make sure the electrical appliance doesn’t come in contact with water.
- Place a portable space heater or a heating lamp near the water pipe.
- Use an electrical heating tape. This requires careful installation and may not be applicable for frozen water pipes made of plastic because of its risk of melting it down.
Do not use fire at all costs. We strongly discourage using an open flame in thawing frozen water pipes, regardless of whatever material they are made of. Aside from the risk of melting and deforming the pipes, it’s also a fire hazard that can spread and further endanger you and your loved ones.
When to Call a Professional Plumber
The Internet may be teeming with a lot of tutorials teaching you how to hack plumbing repair.
While we encourage you to learn new things, it is important to also know when to acknowledge that it’s time to call in a professional plumber. Sometimes, this is the most effective way to mitigate a frozen water pipe disaster, instead of wasting precious time experimenting on how to unfreeze frozen pipes and then ending up doing more harm than good.
Here are some scenarios that indicate it’s time to bring in a professional plumber.
- If you are not confident with your handyman skills and are wary about how to unfreeze frozen pipes on your own
- If you cannot pinpoint the location of the frozen pipe
- If you have a hunch that there could be a bigger problem than just frozen water pipes—let’s say, you live in a period home and you are worried the ageing pipes won’t make it so they need to be replaced immediately
If you find yourself in any of these situations above, it is highly recommended that you contact a reliable plumbing service armed with the expertise on how to fix frozen pipes as soon as possible. They can also give you recommendations about pipe insulation and if it’s time to update your old exterior pipes with no-frosting models available. They can also take care of the replacement and installation themselves.
Emergency Plumbing Services by Plumbwize
Plumbwize is a leading provider of professional plumbing services in Hamilton, Oakville, Burlington, and anywhere in between. We have over 20 years in the industry and have delivered high-quality emergency plumbing repairs to numerous residential and commercial clients. We use only the best plumbing practices and advanced technologies. We specialize in fixing frozen water pipes, burst pipe repair, pipe replacement, plumbing and drain cleaning for property managers, and plumbing remodelling as well.
Do you need help unfreezing your frozen water pipes? We got you covered. Plumbwize has a team of professional, licensed, and insured plumbers on standby 24 hours a day, seven days a week! We have record-fast response times and efficient burst pipe repair services.