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What You Need to Know About Frozen Pipes in an Emergency

Frozen pipes aren’t something any homeowner wants to discover in the dead of winter. But, if you turn on the tap during subzero weather and nothing happens or you get a slow, sad trickle, that’s probably what you’re dealing with. You need to know how to act quickly before this inconvenience becomes a costly problem.

Most homeowners assume that if they simply wait and do nothing, the problem will eventually resolve itself. This is often not the case. Frozen pipes are a ticking time bomb because your water delivery system is pressurized… and because ice expands. The combination of pressure and expanding ice can cause your plumbing to fracture and burst! Here’s how to avoid this problem.

Act quickly to find the frozen section

The first thing you need to do is find the frozen section of plumbing in your home. This shouldn’t be difficult, since it will likely have frost on it. Look for exposed sections of plumbing near uninsulated areas—along the outer edge of the home.

Once you find the frozen section, open the nearest faucet before you start your thawing efforts. This will alleviate any pressure and allow the water to flow safely to an exit. Open both hot and cold handles!

Safely begin thawing pipes

There are tons of ways to begin thawing plumbing, but the main concept is slow and steady. Put the blow torch down and avoid any open flames! You want to gradually increase the temperature of the pipe to slowly and safely defrost the ice within it. Here are a few simple ways to do this safely:
  • Wrap the frozen section in a blanket or towel to create a heat barrier.
  • Blow dry the frozen section using a hair dryer on medium-high heat.
  • Position a space heater 3-5 feet from the pipe and check it every 30 minutes.
  • Use electrical heating tape to wrap the plumbing.
Avoid using electric blankets or anything else that might be hazardous around water. In the event the pipe develops a fracture, you don’t want to mingle electricity and water!

What if the pipe is behind a wall?

Some homeowners will run into a debacle: their frozen pipe is behind drywall. In this situation, you’ve got two options for thawing frozen pipes:
  • Cut a clean hole in the drywall and warm the pipe; or
  • Call a plumber to see if they can alleviate the blockage another way.
Most newer homes will have insulation behind drywall that prevents frozen pipes. If you live in an older home, know where your enclosed plumbing is and be aware of these pipes as the temperatures begin to drop.

Avoid frozen pipes this winter

As with most plumbing issues, the best way to remedy frozen pipes in your home is to avoid them. Here are a few tips for preventing ice dams and frozen blockages from developing in your pipes:
  • Leave your taps open just a trickle before bed on nights when the temp will drop far below freezing. Even a slow movement of water is enough to prevent freezing.
  • Insulate all exposed plumbing or wrap it in heat-distribution tape to help it maintain a higher core temperature, even as surrounding temperatures drop.
  • Keep your home at a reasonable temperature and do what you can to seal up any areas where creeping winter freezes might cause a drop in air temperature.
If you’re having trouble with frozen pipes or don’t feel confident dealing with one on your own, give us a call: info@pipemasters.ca or (289) 404-9063. Our experienced team will protect your plumbing against Mother Nature’s frigid chill this winter!

PipeMasters is part of Oakridge Plumbing Ontario Ltd. and serves the East GTA, Durham Region, North to Lindsay & Peterborough, out to Cobourg and all points in between. All Rights Reserved.
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