Frozen pipes are an unfortunate reality for many homeowners during the winter. The longer pipes stay frozen, the more likely they are to burst, causing costly and time-consuming damage to your property. The good news is there are quite a few D.I.Y. methods to try before calling a plumber.
Finding the frozen pipe
Turn on all the faucets in the house. If water is not flowing, retrace the pipe starting at the faucet. The place where it is blocked will literally feel ice cold.
If none of the faucets are working, the issue is with the main supply water pipe, usually found in the basement, crawlspace, or on the side of the house that faces the street. This is a case where you may want to call a professional.
Thawing exposed pipes
Open both the hot and cold faucets.
When you have easy access to the frozen pipe, start with the easiest method and work your way down the list. Always start the thawing process closest to the faucet and work your way down the pipe to the blockage
- Hairdryer- Directly blow a hairdryer on the hottest setting on the pipe from the faucet down. You’ll know you’re successful once the faucet is able to run with full force.
- A heat lamp or space heater- Place a heat lamp or space heater as close as you safely can to the pipe, making sure it’s far enough away from anything flammable.
- Hot towels- Wrap hot towels around the pipe. Replace towels once they cool until the pipe is unblocked.
- Electrical heating tape- This can be the most costly D.I.Y. method, costing $50-200 depending on the length, but it usually works quickly by equally distributing heat on the pipe.
Thawing enclosed pipes
Frozen pipes that are in a wall or ceiling can pose a bigger challenge but you do have a few options before you call a licensed plumber.
- Turn the heat up in the house. Sometimes it just takes making the home warmer to move ice out of the blocked pipe.
- Use an infrared lamp next to the wall where the pipe is located.
- Cut out a section of the wall and follow the procedures listed above for an exposed pipe.
Preventing frozen pipes
There are a few simple tips homeowners can do to prevent frozen pipes entirely. First, turn faucets on a trickle when temperatures dip and open cabinet doors that enclose water pipes. Insulating pipes, covering exposed overhangs, and proper insulation can also prevent frozen pipes.