Water Pipes Are Frozen

Problem: Lack of heat, or unusually cold weather, causes water in pipes to freeze solid.

Background: When water supply pipes become frozen, they should be thawed out promptly to avoid any possible bursting. A bulge may indicate the location of the frozen area in soft copper or lead pipe, but bulges may not be visible in pipes made from other metals. If the pipes involved have split open, they will spray out water if the water is not turned off before it thaws. Sections of bulged or split pipe must be re placed.

What to do: Use some form of heat to melt the ice in the pipes. When thawing water pipes, start on the supply side and keep a faucet in the “on” position so you will know when a flow starts. A good way to defrost frozen pipes is to restore heat to the area. You may also wrap old cloth around pipes and pour boiling water over them. Or you can use a heat lamp, a hair dryer, or electrical heating tape to defrost them. (Avoid using a propane torch because its concentrated heat may create steam that could cause the pipe to burst.) Heat lamps should be kept at least 6 inches away from any walls. Electrical heating tape, covered with insulating tape, can be wrapped around pipes that freeze frequently, and plugged in during extremely cold weather.

Special advice: With waste or sewer pipe, start at the lower end and work upward, if possible, so that the water will be able to flow away as the ice melts. You may be able to thaw frozen traps, waste pipes, drains, and sewer pipes by pouring boiling water into them through the drain opening or trap. If that doesn’t work, call a plumber.

Helpful hint: In many cases, pipes near an outside wall tend to freeze because they do not have enough insulation. Wherever pipes become frozen, consider adding insulation to the outside walls in that area. (Opening up a portion of the wall may be necessary to gain access to add the insulation.) If pipes next to an outside wall freeze occasionally, consider keeping the wall open (re move the sheetrock or paneling) at that point and installing a louver so the home’s heat will keep the temperature in the outside wall above freezing.




The Home Repair Guide

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