Help, my water pipes are frozen... What do I do?
It's time to start thinking about your pipes. Yes, pipes. We've got you covered with Pipes 411 by an expert plumber: prevent frozen water pipes, frozen water pipe symptoms and — just in case — how to thaw frozen water pipes.
Who do you turn to when you're worried about frozen pipes? A plumber, that's who. We've taken that step for you and spoke with Ed del Grande , master plumber, Kohler Co. spokesperson, contractor, and host on HGTVPro.com and DIY Network, and gathered everything you need to know about your pipes — the good, the bad and even the messy.
How to prevent frozen water lines
Any water line can ice up if exposed to below freezing temperatures. So while it's impossible to prevent frozen water lines, here are Ed's three basic tips to help avoid getting a frozen water line.
- Seal up any openings in outside walls or wall pockets that can cause cold air to make contact with water lines. Also, in cold areas like a crawlspace, make sure you insulate all water lines.
- During prolonged periods of extremely cold weather, keep the heat up in all areas of the house. Shutting down a zone to save energy may cost you a lot more money if you end up freezing a water line.
- Protect against losing heat during a winter power failure by installing a standby generator system to keep the heating system on and your water lines above freezing temperatures.
How to know if you have frozen water pipes
Ed explains that a frozen water line can act as if someone has turned off a shut valve to your plumbing fixtures. You'll know this has happened if one of two things occurs in your home.
- In many cases, you can have water flowing to some fixtures, while others will not operate. For example, the sink and shower work but water isn't getting to the toilet.
- In other cases, the main water line can freeze and the entire house can lose water.
What to do about frozen water pipes
So what do you do if this happens? Ed says to move fast! Acting as quickly as possible is the key to protecting your water pipes from splitting due to an expanding ice blockage. These are Ed's do's and don'ts.
- If you know the exact area of the freeze up, get a bucket of hot water and soak rags in the water. Then lay the hot rags on the frozen pipe. Keep up this process until the pipe warms up.
- Don't use open flames or electrical equipment to thaw the water line.
- Then, call a master plumber as soon as possible to trace the problem, thaw the line and make the repairs necessary to protect your home from water damage.