Winter brings a wide range of trials and hurdles for every homeowner. While frozen pipes might not be the first to come to mind, it is definitely one of the worst to experience. A frozen pipe can lead to flooding, which in turn can result in extensive, and expensive, damage to the surrounding walls or other pipes. Read on to learn how to locate the frozen pipe and restore it to proper working order without breaking the bank or more pipes.
Understanding the Issue
Pipes freeze when the external temperature drops low enough to cause the water passing through to turn to ice, which in turn disrupts the flow of water. The main issue is that as the water in the pipes freeze, it can expand and cause undue pressure on the pipes, regardless of their material. This can lead to cracks in the pipe, which can cause leaks or complete breaks that can cause up to hundreds of gallons of water to leak into the surrounding area. The goal with repairing a frozen pipe is to slowly and safely thaw the ice without causing any additional damage.
Locating the Problem
Begin by turning off the water running into your home or only to the affected area if possible. Examine the pipes for any obvious signs of leakage, such as dripping water or visible ice. Focus on the areas most likely to experience the issue, starting with pipes in uninsulated areas and outdoor valves before moving inside. Refrain from opening any walls until you thoroughly inspect all exposed pipes, as this can save you both effort and money.
Once you find the pipe in question, tap on it gently with a screwdriver or wrench to find the frozen spot. Listen to the sound after each tap, as the frozen area will sound more solid and feature less reverberation.
Unfreezing the Pipe
Find the faucet that connects to the frozen pipe and open it slightly to allow the water to drain out as you unfreeze it. Use a gentle, steady heat source such as a hair dryer or space heater to warm up the pipes slowly. Ensure even heating across the pipe to avoid rapid changes that can lead to ruptures. Also, avoid using excessive heat on PVC pipes, as this can lead to melting the material and result in further issue.
Other thawing methods include wrapping the pipe in thermal tape or cloths soaked in warm water. Monitor the pipe continuously during the heating process to make sure the ice is melting and the pipes are not damaged. Never use an open flame to warm the pipes. If the pipe is behind a wall, place a heater in front of the area or turn up the internal heating system for a few hours to begin the thawing.
For more information and tips, contact experienced plumbers in your area.