Winter weather has arrived for much of North America and with that comes the usual cold weather headaches, including the risk of snow, sleet and ice along with flu season and freezing temperatures. Those low temperatures can also usher in a specific plumbing issue for homeowners – frozen pipes.
A frozen pipe is a typical, yet sometimes large-scale plumbing issue to come across. 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 minor leak to major flooding.
There are several signs that can alert you to a frozen pipe. If you find a water line covered in frost or any lumps within the pipe, that is a pretty sure symbol that your water pipe is frozen. While it may seem straightforward 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 could be frozen.
So what can you do in the event that you think your pipes could be frozen? It is essential to shut off the power to your water supply before you start trying to thaw your pipe in order to stop 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 measures don’t solve the problem, call a professional plumber in to assess the situation. You should never attempt to use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, or anything else with an open flame, as these are fire dangers.
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 actions to stop your pipes from freezing:
Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.
Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful 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 prevent 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 encounter 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 steps do not work 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.