Winter weather is upon us for much of North America and with that comes the normal cold weather woes, including the possibility of snow, sleet and ice along with flu season and freezing temperatures. Those low temperatures can also cause a specific plumbing problem for homeowners – frozen pipes.
A frozen pipe is a typical, yet sometimes major plumbing issue to face. When the weather is cold and the temperature falls below freezing, the water in your home’s pipes may freeze and enlarge, which can result in anything from a small leak to full-fledge flooding.
There are several signs that can tip you off to a frozen pipe. If you notice a water line covered in frost or any lumps within the pipe, that is a pretty distinct sign that your water pipe is frozen. While it may seem obvious to know if your water lines are frozen, just realize that not all plumbing pipes are always visible. If you turn on the sink and the water isn’t running, or not flowing properly, or your toilets won’t refill after a flush, that’s also a sign that your pipes are likely frozen.
So what can you do if you think your pipes could be frozen? It is very important to shut off the power to your water supply before you try to thaw your pipe in order to prevent the pipe from breaking. Try warming the frozen area of the pipe with heated water or packing towels that have been soaked in hot water around your water pipes. If these steps don’t solve the problem, call a professional plumber in to assess the situation. Do not attempt to use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, or anything else with an open flame, as these are fire risks.
If the pipe has actually burst, begin soaking up the water with a mop, rags or sponges to clean up as much as you can before it causes damage. If the damage is critical, go ahead and contact your insurance agent – some homeowners insurance policies cover burst pipes that cause water damage.
The American Red Cross recommends taking these steps to prevent your pipes from freezing:
Keep garage doors shut if there are water supply lines in the garage.
Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to permit warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any dangerous cleaners and household chemicals up out of the reach of children.
When the weather is very cold outside, let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe - even at a trickle - helps keep pipes from freezing.
Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night. By temporarily suspending the use of lower nighttime temperatures, you may incur a higher heating bill, but you can prevent a much more costly repair job if pipes freeze and burst.
If you will be traveling during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55° F.
If these preventative measures are not successful and you find yourself combating frozen pipes this winter, call the plumbing Experts—available 24/7/365— to help at or schedule an appointment online.