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Freezing weather can cause problems in even the most prepared household. Frozen pipes are one of the biggest worries when the weather turns cold because frozen pipes can burst and then leak when they thaw and water begins to run freely again.
While there are many ways to help prevent pipes from freezing, an exceptionally cold winter or sudden, unexpected freeze can leave your home vulnerable. Knowing how to fix a frozen pipe is an important part of keeping your homestead running in the winter.
1. Identify the frozen pipes and their location.
Pipes most likely to freeze are those that are exterior such as those servicing hose bibs, sprinklers, and pool supply lines. Coldwater pipes are also more likely to freeze.
2. Identify (if possible) any breaks in the water line and turn off the water if burst pipes are evident.
This is especially important if you are trying to fix a frozen pipe outside but with connections inside! Burst water pipes can ruin your drywall and cause flood damage that will leave your home with hidden mold!
3. Open the faucet.
Turn on the water faucet that is connected to any pipe that is frozen. This is one of the most important steps. Opening the faucet will allow any steam and melted water to escape, and it will allow fresh water to move up to the block and help with the thawing process (as long as your pipes haven’t already burst and you did not need to turn your water off).
4. Apply heat to the frozen pipes.
To fix a frozen pipe, begin closest to the faucet and slowly move down as the ice melts, work your way from the top of the frozen pipe to the bottom of it. Do not start right on the blockage itself, instead focus on warming the whole pipe from top to bottom.
There are a number of different methods to help with this. The first is to open any easy access to the pipes such as cabinets and cupboards. You can also wrap a heating pad around the pipe, point a hairdryer or heater at it, and even towels soaked in hot water. However, NEVER try to defrost your pipes with an open flame such as a blow torch! If you use a space heater, be sure the area is clear of any flammable debris and never leave it unattended.
You will continue to apply heat until your water flow is completely back to normal. If you suspect that other pipes are also frozen, you’ll want to turn them on and see how they are doing. Reduced flow can be a sign of freezing.
5. Call a professional if you think that pipes in exterior walls may be frozen.
Unless you’re comfortable cutting into and replacing your drywall yourself, calling a professional is the best way to work with these kinds of pipes.
The best way to fix a frozen pipe, however, is to avoid them freezing in the first place. Make sure to cover all outside hose bibs, leave faucets dripping during a freeze, and consider ceramic wall heaters that provide radiant heat through walls and can keep pipes in exterior walls warmer.