On a dark winter morning, the last thing you want to encounter is a frozen faucet or drain. Frozen pipes interrupt your ability to use a washing machine, wash dishes or even take a shower – making it difficult to tackle your normal daily routine, not to mention the damage they cause to your home. In this article, learn why pipes freeze, what happens if they do and how to prevent future problems. 

Why Pipes Freeze

Water expands when it freezes, which puts extra pressure on pipe and drain lines. This added pressure has the potential to damage the interior of steel, copper, iron and PVC piping, which results in pinhole leaks or full fractures. When pipes burst, unfrozen water is able to escape from the pipe. Since the fracture is possible along a section of the pipe that does not contain a valve, the entire room has the potential to become flooded.

Plumbing lines that are the most prone to freezing are exposed to severe cold, such as hose bibs or swimming pool supply lines. Water supply pipes in unfinished interior spaces like attics, basements and crawlspaces are also prone to frozen pipes, as well as any pipe that runs along an exterior wall without a lot of insulation. 

3 Steps for Thawing Pipes

If you spot a frozen pipe, don’t rely on an internet search. Call a professional at Apollo Home and follow these steps to thaw out your pipes. 

Locate the Frozen Pipe

Locate the frozen section of pipe carefully. Check for faucets that do not produce water, and then check under the sink for a piece of pipe section that is either bulging or has frost on the exterior. 

Open the Faucet

After you have spotted the frozen pipe, open the faucet so any water you thaw can drain. 

Start Thawing Towards the Faucet

To thaw frozen pipes, gently heat the frozen area. To accomplish this, apply heat with a hair dryer, an electric blanket, a heat lamp or electrical heating tape to the frozen pipe. Try to thaw the line closest to the faucet first to prevent pressure from building in the line. 

How to Prevent a Frozen Pipe

Will frozen pipes thaw on their own? Not before major damage results, such as broken pipes and water damage. The best thing to do is practice prevention.

While thawing pipes is time consuming, you are often able to prevent the problem by making a few changes at home. Here are a few ways to prevent freezing pipes

Insulate Exposed Segments 

All exposed segments of drain pipes should be covered with foam pipe insulation. Slip-on insulation comes with a slit down the center, which makes it easy to attach to plumbing without disconnecting anything. If you notice pipes that move down into the soil, dig until you can access at least 12 inches around the pipe, and insulate the spans at least a foot below the surface of the dirt. This prevents pipes sitting in the frost line from freezing.  

Keep Cold Air Away

Look for any gaps in the exterior wall of the house that may allow frigid outdoor air to reach drain pipes and other plumbing. Seal these spaces with spray foam insulation, or use exterior caulking to take care of smaller crevices. Larger openings in the wall need to be permanently patched with wood or siding.

Fix Dripping Faucets in the House

Drain pipes that don’t contain any water can’t freeze. Since drain pipes are typically installed in a way that allows all water to empty into the sewer line, any faucets that drip could create enough water to freeze the drain. Have any plumbing issues in your home resolved before the first hard freeze. 

Winterize Outdoor Hose Bibs

Shut off the indoor valve first, then open the outdoor spigot and drain the line. Leave the faucet open so pressure can’t build up, and cover the hose bib with an inexpensive foam insulator available at most hardware stores. You don’t have to worry about frozen pipes if you take proper precautions to drain the pipe.

Protect Water Lines in Unheated Areas

Identify any water pipes susceptible to freezing, such as those in the attic, unheated garage, basement, exterior walls or in bathroom or kitchen cabinets. If they are accessible, install pipe sleeve insulation or heat tape on both the cold and hot water lines.

Drain Sprinkler and Swimming Pool Lines

Follow the installer or manufacturer’s directions for draining these water lines to keep them safe from freezing.

What to Do If a Pipe Bursts?

If a pipe bursts in your home, immediately shut off the main water line to your home. Doing this helps prevent excess water use, which will run up your water bill significantly. Each plumbing fixture in your home should also have an individual shut-off valve, usually located under the sink or behind the toilet. If the burst pipe occurs after this valve, you may be able to shut off the water at the source instead of turning off the water to your entire home. 

Before and After Tips – Before Freezing Weather Strikes

Don’t wait for a frozen pipe. Take action to prevent the problem in the first place.

Learn the Locations of Your Water Shut-off Valves

Test valves to make sure they turn easily. If they do not seem to work, call a plumber. 

Insulate Exposed Plumbing

Wherever you can access water supply lines (including hot water lines) in or under the house, insulate these pipes with slip-on sleeves or foam plumbing insulation.

Disconnect Garden Hoses

Disconnect all garden hoses, drain the hoses and store for the winter. Shut off, drain and freeze-proof outdoor faucets. Install insulation kits on any standard faucets.

Seal Cracks and Crevices Around Your House

Look for any outside openings where cold, outdoor air can enter a crawlspace or exterior wall and contact plumbing pipes. Cover these openings with wood or foam board.

Tips During Freezing Temperatures

During periods of freezing weather, prevent frozen pipes with these measures:

Adjust Your Thermostat

If temperatures drop below 28 degrees, keep the thermostat above 55 degrees, 24 hours a day. Make sure heating vents are open in all rooms. Also, open closet doors and cabinets to allow warm air circulation.

Turn on Your Faucets

Locate faucets in the house furthest from the main water line and open each faucet to allow a continuous trickle of water during frigid overnight temperatures.

Draining Pipes

Draining pipes can help prevent frozen pipes. Here are a few steps for how to accomplish this task. 

Turn off Water

Make sure the water supply to pipes has been cut off. The main supply will have to be shut off during this process. If you are uncertain about how to turn off the main supply, contact your water service provider or a Cincinnati licensed plumber.

Flush Toilets

Flush the toilets in your home. Continue flushing until the water in the tank of the toilet is completely gone. 

Turn on Faucets

Turn the faucets in sinks, showers and bathtubs on in order to drain this water.

Apollo Home Helps with Frozen Pipes

Whether your pipes are frozen or you want to take precautionary measures before winter hits, Apollo Home can help. We offer convenient appointment times and in-house financing, making it easy to protect your home this winter and prevent frozen pipes that can burst and cause severe water damage.