My Pipes are Frozen. What Do I Do?
The first three things to do when your pipes are frozen are:
- Turn Off your Water Main
- Turn On Your Faucets
- Thaw Your Pipes
It’s important to move quickly. If enough pressure builds up, then a pipe could rupture or burst. When that happens, you’re looking at dozens of gallons of water pouring into your home every hour.
Even just a few minutes of that can cause thousands of dollars in damage.
In this post, we’ll dive right into what to do when your pipes are frozen so you don’t end up with water damage.
But first, we’ll let you know how to tell for sure if that’s the problem. And, after we walk you through what to do, we’ll let you know if and when you need to call a plumber.
Meanwhile, if you have any questions, or if you’re worried that your frozen pipes are a bigger problem than you can handle, don’t hesitate to call Bovio. Our family-run company has served South Jersey’s HVAC and plumbing needs for nearly half a century. We know how to keep your home safe.
How Do I Tell If My Pipes Are Frozen?
If it’s cold out, and suddenly there’s no water coming through your faucets, your pipes are probably frozen. Make sure the water main is in the “on” position. And, you can check with the water company to make sure there aren’t any problems on that end.
At this point, it’s most likely that this is the problem. So, proceed to step one.
If you still want to make sure, then feel the pipes and see if they are especially cold. And, look for frost. That will tell you exactly where the problem lies.
Now that you’re sure this is the problem, it’s time to start fixing it.
The good news is, most of the time you won’t need to call a plumber. But, you have to make sure you’ve solved the problem.
And, we’ll let you know when you need to call in a pro.
Turn Off Your Water Main
The first thing to do is turn off the water main. In most homes in Gloucester, NJ and other towns in Central Jersey, you’ll find it inside in the basement. It should be on the wall closest to the street.
Occasionally, it’s outside the house in a pit. Either way, you’ll find it near the property line or close to the street.
Now that you’ve found it, look for a lever sticking out from the pipe. It’s a knife-style valve that’s long and flat.
It should only turn one way. So, don’t force it. Once you turn a quarter of the way, it’ll stop again. That means the water is shut off.
Why You Have to Shut Off the Water
Here’s what’s happened: It got so cold out that even the pipes in your house cooled down. So much, in fact, that water inside the pipes froze.
Now, there’s a chunk of ice blocking the path. But, water is still coming into the house. And, it’s building up pressure behind the blockage.
When you turn off the water, you prevent more from backing up behind the pipe.
Go too long without doing this, and that pressure will find a way out. That’s when you end up with anything from a small rupture to a full-on burst. Either one means lots of damage and an emergency call to a plumber.
Turn On Your Faucets
Next, turn on your faucets. Sure, no water will come out. But, hopefully, soon it will.
Actually, you may get a little trickle. That would be whatever is left on that side of the ice blockage. But, you want the tap open to relieve pressure inside the pipe.
Plus, you’ll know the pipe is thawed when the faucet starts running again.
Thaw Your Pipes
Now that you’ve prepped everything, it’s time to thaw the pipes. This is where you’ll warm them up enough so the ice melts and the water can flow through them again.
First step is to find the blockage. That’s where the frost is building up. You can also feel around for cold spots.
If you’re unsure, then start where the pipe enters the house. Eventually, that thermal energy will travel all the way to where the ice is stuck.
Here’s what you can do:
Insulate the Pipes
Start off by making sure heat can’t escape. Wrap the pipe in towels. Or, cut open a pool noodle and make encase the pipe with it.
Use a Space Heater
If the blockage is near the floor, you can point a space heater at that spot. Or, start off by putting the heater near the water main. Again, this should make the heat radiate out until it hits the problem spot.
Use a Hair Dryer
This works best once you know where the ice is located. Simply get close to it with a hairdryer, and turn it on until you hear water running out of a faucet somewhere.
Do NOT Use An Open Flame
You can use quite a few methods to thaw the pipe — so long as none of them involve an open flame. That’s right, no blowtorches, lighters, or anything like that.
It’s a fire hazard, and you could burn the pipe or yourself.
When Do I Need to Call a Plumber?
If you’ve followed all these steps, the pipe should thaw with no problem. But, sometimes things don’t always work out so well. So, you need to know when to call a plumber for frozen pipes.
First, obviously, if there’s a leak of any kind, call right away. Even if it’s just a drip. At that point, you could be looking at a small rupture that’s about to get worse.
Next, you can call if you can’t get the pipe to thaw yourself. It’s tough to say how long this should take. But, if it’s been more than 12 hours and you’ve tried a bunch of things, call in the pros.
It’s not like we have special tools or secret tricks. But, we’re more familiar with the plumbing system and how it’s laid out. So, it’ll be easier for us to find the problem spot and zero in on it.
Finally, if you notice a bulge or small break somewhere, call a professional. Even if the water is running fine, you don’t want to ignore a bulge.
What’s happened is the pressure build up enough to start pushing out on the pipe. If that pressure didn’t get relieved, eventually it would have burst.
Thankfully it didn’t get that far. But, the metal could be compromised. So, you may not be so lucky next time.
If you need a plumber in the South Jersey area, call Bovio Heating and Plumbing. We’ll get your pipes thawed as soon as possible.
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