The big problem with frozen pipes is not that they are frozen. It is the possibility that the freezing will cause them to burst, spraying water all over the place. If you are lucky, your frozen pipes won’t burst because not all of them do. On the other hand, if you are not so lucky, be prepared.
The pipes burst because water expands as it freezes. Ice takes up more space. That puts a lot of pressure on the pipes, and if you have a crack in the pipe or a joint that is less than solid, the pressure will find its release at those points.
If the pipe is exposed, it is easy to see if it is frozen – it is either coated with a layer of frost or bulging like a balloon. However, not all pipes are exposed. You can tell if hidden pipes are frozen by the water flow – nothing comes out of the faucet or the toilet tank does not refill after flushing.
To thaw out a frozen pipe, the first thing you need to do is turn off the water to the section of pipe that is frozen. If that is not possible, turn off water to the entire house. Make sure you have a pail and mop handy. After you thaw the pipe, you may get a little geyser because the ice has been acting like a plug, and when it melts, water may come out of the cracks in the pipe.
You can use several methods to thaw a pipe. A space heater, heat lamp or hair dryer all will do the trick. You can also wrap the pipe in heat tape that is controlled by a thermostat.
If you do get a gusher, the first thing to do – if you have not done so already — is turn off the main water supply to the house with the shut-off valve. Then call a plumber. In the meantime, try to get up as much water as possible using whatever you can – a mop, sponges, towels, wet/dry vac. To prevent mold and mildew, also run a dehumidifier.
You will notice that the main water shut-off valve to the house has been mentioned several times. As you might guess, it is very important to know where this valve is. It controls the flow of water to the entire house. So, if you need to stop a leak, you need to know where this valve is. If you don’t, you should take the time to find out – before a problem develops.
It’s best to check for cracks and leaks in your pipes before winter arrives and Plumbing Dynamics can come on out to your home or office and check them out. Contact us at 214-929-3431.