Winter is here and with it, one of the most common problems when it comes to plumbing issues in the house: frozen pipes. You should act immediately when you realize your pipes are freezing. Here, you'll learn how to detect frozen pipes, how to prevent frozen pipes, how to prepare for thawing, and how to thaw pipes.
At JobJar, we are aware of the troubles that frozen pipes can cause at home. One of the major risks of frozen pipes is that they can burst. This is particularly dangerous because when pipes explode, it causes a lot of damage in your house. And you don’t want that, right? So, in order to avoid all of these troubles, here is an easy step by step guide so you can solve frozen pipe issues. Keep reading and just get it done!
Step 1: frozen pipes
Through the fall maintenance blog (Defining a Fall Home Maintenance Game Plan), we suggested to empty all exposed/exterior pipes. However, with the cold snaps of Winter, we still need to keep an eye on
Exposed pipes in unheated areas of the home.
Pipes located in exterior walls.
Any plumbing on the exterior of the home.
Before getting into how to fix frozen pipes, it’s important to know how to determine if the pipes are actually frozen. In our experience, there are 3 signs to look for that confirm you have frozen pipes in your house.
How cold is it outside? For pipes to freeze, it needs to be cold enough outside. While the temperature is around 15.5°C, you can chill. But once the temperature begins to fall below 0°C, you need to start taking precautions.
Which pipes should we be on the lookout for? Pipes that are in heated areas of the home are rarely ever frozen. However, plumbing pipes in unheated areas such as garage, attic or crawl space are in big risk of becoming frozen. Is there frost on the pipe? Visible pipes, like the ones under the sinks, accumulate frost on their exterior when they’re frozen. This is definitely a pretty obvious warning sign; you don’t even have to turn on the faucet to determine if the pipe is frozen.
Is water coming out of the faucet? One of the most common symptoms of frozen pipes is that the water doesn’t come out of the faucet. If this is happening, it’s very likely that your pipes are frozen. Also, keep in mind that it could be that a portion is travelling in exterior walls has frozen because the walls were not done to code or properly insulated.
Step 2: get some tools, or get help!
Once you have confirmed that you have plumbing problems due to frozen pipes, we recommend you act as fast as you can.
Feeling handy? Ok. First, you must get some basic tools: a heavy towel or a burlap bag, hot or boiling water, a propane torch, and a heat lamp, electric iron or hair dryer.
But be advised: You won’t be able to unfreeze your pipes by yourself in every scenario. This will depend on the area where the pipe is located, and on your level of expertise when it comes to plumbing.
If you think you can’t handle the situation on your own and you need help, don’t panic! We have a bunch of skilled doers that will gladly solve the problem for you. You don’t even have to go out, you only need a computer, smartphone or tablet, and an internet connection to search and connect with plumbers in your area. Easy breezy, so there’s no excuse: just get it done!
Step 3: unfreeze the pipes
There are many methods for unfreezing pipes. Here are the three easiest and most effective ones we found:
Use hot water:
Wrap and secure a heavy towel or a burlap bag around the frozen pipe. By doing this, the heat will concentrate on the area and will hold around the pipe.
Place a bucket under the pipe to catch the runoff water and melting ice.
Pour hot or boiling water over the towel. Yes, we know the process may be a little messy, but it’s effective. Actually, this method is so easy that it’s no wonder it’s the most popular one.
Use a propane torch: You must be extremely careful while using a propane torch equipped with a flame-spreader nozzle.
Light the torch.
Keep the flame moving back and forth over the frozen area of your pipes. Don’t leave it on one spot for too long! Of course, this method can’t be applied on plastic pipes.
Once again, if you think you can’t handle the situation, remember it’s better to call for professional help.
Use a heat lamp or hair dryer: Consider this method if you think the options above are too messy or too dangerous. This option is for patient people, though. Even when it’s effective it takes longer, but it’s also safer. So it may be worth the effort.
Plug the hair dryer and make sure the cable is long enough for you to reach the frozen pipe.
Turn it on the highest and hottest setting and point the air at the pipe, slowly moving over the frozen area
Step 4: prevent frozen pipes!
In order to reduce the amount of possible freezing pipes, you should place an insulating dome on outdoor faucets and spigots. If you don’t have an insulating dome, you can use some other covering you might have on hand.
Allowing a slow drip from your faucets will reduce the pressure in the pipes.
If you use hoses outdoors, remove and store them when the weather is cold.
Close the inside valve that supplies the outdoor hose bibs.
Open the outside hose bibs to allow the water to drain.
If the outside valve is open, any water remaining in the pipe will expand and the pipe won’t break.
Check around the house for spots where the water supply lines are in unheated areas and monitor those pipes more often than others.
Even though frozen pipes are a big concern, if you’re aware of the situation, you can easily solve it following the steps above. But, remember, if the problem gets too big or too complicated, simply contact one of our skilled doers and just get it done!