Emergency Tips

How to Repair, Thaw, and Prevent Frozen Pipes

We have officially entered the coldest months of the year and below freezing weather means potential below freezing pipes. Does your property, business, or home know what to do to prevent the costly outcome? Follow these simple tips to learn how to repair, thaw, and prevent frozen pipes.

Preventing Frozen Pipes

Water expands as it freezes putting significant pressure on pipes until they cannot hold the ice any longer. Below are ways to avoid frozen pipes.

  • Insulate your pipes – insulate the pipes in the unheated areas in your home (attic, basement, crawl space, garage, and under kitchen and bathroom cabinets) with pipe sleeves, heat tape, or a heat cable.
  •  Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature throughout the day and at night – keep your thermostat set at 55° F or higher (especially if you are out of town or not actively at the business/property). Anything below this temperature, you risk pipes freezing.
  • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors – this allows your heat to circulate around the plumbing. If children are in the home, be sure to move any unsafe chemicals or cleaners.
  • Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage – consider keeping them closed even if they are not to help keep heat in the home.
  • Keep faucets dripping – Dripping faucets keep the water in your pipes moving which can prevent your pipes from freezing. This tip should be used only under extreme conditions.
  • Provide an extra power supply – This is particularly important if you are leaving the property for an amount of time. Having a  reliable backup power source ensures that the heat will continue to run even if a snowstorm knocks out a power line.
  • Know the most vulnerable areas – Water supply pipes in unheated interior areas like basements, crawl spaces, attics, garages, or kitchen cabinets are extremely vulnerable, but be sure to watch any metal or plastic pipes outdoors such as hose bibs, swimming pool supply lines, or water sprinkler lines.  Additionally, check on pipes that run against exterior walls and have little or no insulation.
  • Identify where your plumbing pipes and water shut-off valves are – Be sure to have easy access to the main water shut-off valve in case you discover cracked or burst pipes (check garage, basement, laundry room).
  • Have your heating and plumbing system serviced each year – this will help you fix any small problems before they have the opportunity to become larger problems.
  • Drain water from swimming pool and water sprinkler supply lines – follow the manufacturer’s directions. Do not put antifreeze in these lines unless directed.
  • Remove, drain, and store hoses used outdoors –  Close inside valves supplying outdoor hose bibs. Open the outside hose bibs to allow water to drain. Keep the outside valve open so that any water remaining in the pipe can expand without causing the pipe to break.

Thawing frozen pipes

If you turn on a faucet and get a trickle of water output, you stand a chance at identifying frozen pipes early enough to thaw them. To thaw out frozen pipes follow the below steps:

  • Turn on your water faucets. Open hot water faucets to a slow flow, moving water speeds up the thawing process.
  • Find frozen pipes. Check your outside walls, under sinks, and in crawl spaces.
  • Safely apply heat to the frozen pipes. To apply heat you may use electric heat pads, electric hair dryers, portable space heaters, or towels soaked in hot water. If you choose to use a hairdryer or similar heat source, always work from an open faucet back toward the frozen area. This will help keep potentially trapped steam from bursting the pipe. NEVER use anything that projects an open flame to thaw pipes. This will heat the pipe too quickly and may cause it to explode causing major water damage to your home/business/property.
  • Apply heat until full water pressure is restored. If you are unable to locate the frozen area or if you can not thaw the pipe with these tips, call a licensed plumber.
  • Check all other pipes. If one is frozen, others might be as well.

Repairing frozen pipes

If preventative and thawing tips have failed you and your pipes have burst, your first priority is to prevent water from flooding your home, business, or property. Find your main water valve and turn off your water supply as soon as possible. After you are able to turn off the water, you will then need to contact a professional plumber to repair the pipe.

If ANY sign of water damage is present, call a 24/7 water restoration provider like Restoration Management Company for a Water Mitigation evaluation. Water damage is often not identifiable from the exterior and needs to be evaluated by a professional to prevent any potential risks of mold growth.

Remember frozen pipes can occur in any region of the country under the correct circumstances. Always keep an eye on your weather forecast and schedule annual check-ups of your HVAC systems.

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