14 January Close up of an exposed frozen pipe

Will Frozen Pipes Thaw on their Own?

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Frozen pipes are one of the most common problems that homeowners face during the winter season. In the U.S. alone, more than 250,000 homes suffer damage from frozen pipes each year, causing damages estimated at around $400-500 million. In fact, studies conducted by the insurance industry state that the amount of water damage caused by frozen pipes (that burst) ranks second only to hurricanes.

To answer the question, “will frozen pipes thaw on their own?”, yes they will… eventually. Unfortunately, there’s a high likelihood that by the time they thaw on their own, damage would have already been inflicted on the pipes. 

Prevention is the best measure to take against frozen pipes. If you detect frozen pipe problems, it’s best to contact a fast-responding 24/7 emergency plumber to help avoid any incidents of cracked or burst pipes that can cause water damage.  

If you would like to have a better understanding of why it’s inadvisable to allow frozen pipes to thaw on their own, read on! In this article, we discuss the science behind frozen pipes, what you can do if you are faced with this potentially destructive plumbing problem, as well as tips on how to prevent frozen pipes moving forward.

Let’s get started!

Close-up of a dripping faucet

Signs That You Have Frozen Pipes

We’d like to cover this first and foremost because quick detection of frozen pipes is key to avoiding further damage from this notorious winter plumbing problem. Here’s how to tell if your pipes are frozen:

  • Lack of water or reduced water flow from one or more faucets (or other water fixtures)
  • Unusual whistling, banging, or clanking noises coming from the pipes or behind the walls
  • A visible bulge and/or crack on an exposed pipe
  • Icy residue found on an exposed pipe

If the frozen pipe is behind a wall and has already cracked then thawed, you may notice decreased water pressure due to the leak. You may also detect signs of moisture on the wall or floor of your home that is closest to the pipe. If you notice any of the above signs or a combination of signs, please contact an expert plumber immediately. We, at PlumbWize, have emergency plumbers ready to respond 24/7. Even if you are unsure about your plumbing issue, you can give us a call and we will advise you on the next steps to take.

At What Conditions Do Pipes Freeze?

If you are not currently suffering from a frozen pipe problem but would like to be able to better anticipate when and where it will occur, here is everything you need to know.

The first factor you need to watch out for is temperature. Generally, when weather forecasts show temperatures dipping to 7 C or lower, this means that pipes in the home will generally be prone to freezing. After around 6 consecutive hours within the said temperature range, that’s when vulnerable pipes will complete the freezing process. 

Some pipes are more vulnerable than others, especially if they are outside, on a home’s exterior wall, or if they are located in uninsulated areas of the home. Pipes without any installed insulation are more vulnerable to freezing than insulated pipes.

At What Conditions Do Pipes Thaw on Their Own?

Depending on the weather conditions, it can take days for frozen pipes to thaw on their own. Typically this only happens when the temperature rises above the ideal freezing temperature for pipes.

In comparison, when pipes are thawed proactively with safe-to-use household devices like space heaters or hair dryers, the process will take around 30 minutes. Expert plumbers, however, can get the job done much faster due to their specialized techniques and equipment.

Why Do Frozen Pipes Usually Crack or Burst Before They Thaw?

As we’ve discussed in the previous section, when pipes are left to thaw on their own, it can take days. And within this timeframe, cracking or bursting is highly likely.

This is due to two coinciding factors: the expansion of frozen water and the pressure that it creates. As water freezes and crystallizes into ice, it also expands in volume by approximately 9%. Surprisingly, this alone does not typically cause a pipe to crack or burst. What happens is the frozen water ends up partially or fully obstructing the pipe and thus, water cannot flow like normal. This creates added pressure over time which causes the pipe to bulge further and then crack or burst.

Close-up of a burst pipe

Next Steps to Take for Frozen Pipes

If You Have Frozen Pipes

As we mentioned before, if you have frozen pipes, you need to call in an expert emergency plumber to help thaw them before they get worse. By doing so, you will save yourself from costly water damage expenses. 

If you have already called a plumber and are waiting for them to arrive, you can speed up the diagnostic stage (i.e. locating the ice) by taking note of which faucets in each floor are not working or are experiencing sudden decreased water pressure. 

Additionally, if you fear that the pipes may burst and leak heavily in your home, you can opt to turn off your water supply using the main shut-off valve in your house.  

Preventing Frozen Pipes in the Future

Absolutely nobody wants to deal with frozen pipes. With these tips, you can proactively avoid this costly disaster:

  • Turn off (and drain) water from your outdoor faucets and hoses. These water fixtures will be of little to no use during the winter and their adjacent pipes are also the most prone to freezing.
  • Consider getting pipe insulation installed on vulnerable pipes that are located in uninsulated areas or on the exterior walls of the home.
  • Keep the thermostat at a constant temperature of at least 12 C in your home. 
  • If you will be leaving for an extended period of time, make sure to turn off (and drain) water from every water fixture in the house. 

24/7 GTA Plumbing That You Can Count On

Simply waiting for the pipe to thaw can result in cracked or burst pipes – resulting in costly water damage. The potential for water damage is what strongly qualifies frozen pipes as a plumbing emergency. So, if you detect frozen pipes in your home, make sure to contact an expert plumber straight away.

At PlumbWize, we strive to offer top-notch residential and commercial plumbing services in the areas of Burlington, Oakville, Hamilton, Milton, Ancaster, and Stoney Creek. We are known for our timely response and reliable service, so, if you have been wondering “will frozen pipes thaw on their own?” don’t wait to find out – give us a call!

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