Frozen Pipes

How to Thaw a Frozen Pipe

Before doing anything, shut off the water supply to that section of plumbing (or the entire house if that’s the only option) because the real trouble begins after the thaw. That’s because the frozen water may be acting as a plug, preventing water from spilling out of the cracks in your pipes. When that plug is thawed, water gushes out. It’s a good idea to be ready with a mop, bucket, and towels in case there’s a plumbing leak.

“It’s not the frozen pipes that really get plumbers’ phones ringing.”
“It’s the thawing pipes that leak and spew water after a hard freeze.”

Use a space heater, heat lamp, or hair dryer to thaw the frozen length of pipe. Wrapping freezing pipes with thermostatically controlled heat tape (from $50 to $200, depending on length) is also an effective way to quickly thaw a trouble spot.
Don’t thaw pipes using a propane torch, which presents a fire risk.


Frozen Water Pipes

The pipes in your home can freeze in cold weather. This can leave you with no water or cause your pipes to burst, leading to expensive property damage. Take steps to protect your pipes from freezing and learn what to do if they freeze.

• Understanding your water service pipe
• Steps to help prevent frozen pipes
• What to do when the temperature drops well below zero
• If you have no water – how to thaw frozen pipes in your home


Understanding your water service pipe

• Water service pipes are owned by you and the City.The part that the City owns runs from the watermain on the street to the property line.
• The part that you own runs from the property line into the home.

Steps to help prevent frozen pipes

• Know where to find your main water shut-off valve and how it works (in case your pipes burst).
• Insulate pipes most prone to freezing, especially near outside walls and in crawl spaces, the attic and garage. This can be done with foam pipe covers available from building supply or home improvement stores.
• Seal air leaks in your home and garage to stop cold air from getting in. Check around windows and doors, electrical wiring, dryer vents and pipes.
• Outdoor faucets are the first to freeze. Unscrew any hoses, turn off the outdoor water supply and let the taps drain.
• If your pipes are prone to freezing, there may be a problem you cannot see. Consider contacting a plumber for advice on how best to protect your home.
• Commercial water customers – protect fire lines by wrapping all lines exposed to the cold.


What to do when the temperature drops well below zero

• Ensure areas that contain indoor water pipes are kept above 8OC, especially near the water meter.
• Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.
• Open kitchen, bathroom and laundry cabinet doors to allow warm air to circulate around the plumbing.
• If leaving for an extended period of time, turn off the water at the main service valve in the basement and open the taps to drain the water from your plumbing lines. You may also wish to have someone check your home regularly.
• For your own peace of mind, you can choose to run a pencil-thin stream of water to ensure some movement of water in the pipes. However, you will be charged for the water used if you choose this step.
• Run cold water from the lowest point in the house, usually a laundry room sink or tub.
• Ensure the drain is kept clear of debris to prevent overflowing or flooding.


If you have no water – how to thaw frozen pipes in your home

If you turn on your taps and have no water, the pipes in your home may be frozen. Likely places for frozen pipes include against exterior walls or where your water service enters your home through the foundation.

Here are some tips to thaw your pipes yourself, along with precautions to take:

Important precautions

• Do not use a torch with an open flame to thaw pipes, as it creates a fire hazard.
• Ensure you know the location of your master water shut-off valve. If the pipe breaks you will need to immediately shut off the water in your house until the pipe is repaired.

Steps to thaw a frozen pipe

• Turn on a tap in the basement, preferably the cold water faucet in the laundry room.
• Apply heat to the suspected frozen pipe by warming the air around it or applying heat directly to the pipe. You can use an electric heating pad, hair dryer, space heater or warm towel or rag.
• Do not leave electrical devices unattended, or use kerosene or propane heaters, charcoal stoves or any open flame to thaw a frozen pipe.
• Depending on the outside temperature and the extent of freezing within the pipe, the thawing process could take between one and six hours.
• Once the pipes have thawed, turn the water back on slowly and check for cracks and leaks.

If the above steps do not resolve the issue, you are unable to locate the frozen area, or it is not accessible, you may wish to contact a licensed plumber for advice.