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What to do if pipes freeze and how to thaw frozen pipes

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Why are the pipes freezing?

Few cold weather ailments are more annoying than frozen pipes, but what exactly causes them? During the temperature drop, water can freeze inside the plastic pipe, causing it to expand and pressurize. Not only can frozen pipes prevent water from flowing properly, but they can potentially burst and cause flooding in your home. With this in mind, it is crucial that homeowners know what to do if pipes freeze.

What to do if a pipe bursts

If a pipe bursts in your home, you need to act quickly to mitigate further damage. Turn off your water as quickly as possible. This will help minimize the amount of water seeping inside your walls. You may also want to turn off the power in the affected area of ​​your home. After you̵

7;ve taken these precautions, it’s time to call a plumber and start mopping up any mess that has been caused. Try to remove as much of the water and lingering moisture as you can to avoid mold and mildew. Depending on the severity of your case, you may also need to bring in other professionals to repair damage to your walls, carpets, floors or ceilings.1

How to freeze pipes

How can you tell if your pipes are frozen? If you turn on the bathroom or kitchen faucet and only see a few drops or a trickle of water, this may indicate that the water inside the pipes has frozen – preventing it from flowing freely. But don’t panic. You may be more equipped to handle the situation than you think. Here’s a quick lesson on how to thaw a frozen pipe.

Step 1. Turn on the faucet

Keep it going. Allowing the faucet to drip even a little can help prevent a pipe from bursting. It’s simple – when freezing occurs, extreme pressure builds up between the faucet and the ice block. An open tap relieves this pressure build-up and in turn prevents an explosion from occurring.

Step 2. Apply heat to the frozen area

Apply heat slowly with a hair dryer. There are several ways to do this. You can wrap the pipes in thermostatically controlled heating tape, or you can use an external heat source such as a hair dryer or space heater. Do not use a propane torch as this can damage the pipe and pose a fire hazard.

If you decide to use a hair dryer, start directing the air near the faucet end of the pipe and gradually move toward the coldest part. Be careful not to overheat the hair dryer or blow a fuse. Remember to leave the faucet on while heat is applied.

Step 3. Continue to apply heat

Do not stop heating until full water pressure is restored. Even then, it is a good idea to leave the tap open for a few minutes after the pipe has thawed. This will give the ice time to clear completely from the line.

Step 4. Check all faucets and prevent pipes from freezing in the future

Check every faucet in your home for any other frozen pipes. A frozen pipe may mean that others have also been affected.

If the problem persists, contact a plumber. You can prevent pipes from freezing again by taking a few simple steps:

  • Before you leave, keep the temperature in your home above freezing and turn off all water to your house.
  • Be sure to keep all water lines, especially those near exterior walls, insulated with foam rubber or heating cable.
  • Keep cabinet doors open to allow air to circulate.
  • Let your taps drip cold water – it’s harder for a pipe to freeze even if water is running. In order not to waste water, you can collect the drops and reuse them, possibly for cleaning or watering plants.

How long does it take for pipes to freeze

Using any of the handful of methods to thaw frozen pipes usually takes about 30 minutes. This can vary depending on the weather, how long the pipe has been frozen and where the pipe is located. Any of these factors can cause the defrosting process to take longer.2

And remember, a frozen pipe isn’t the only problem that comes with cold weather.

1https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/what-to-do-if-a-frozen-pipe-bursts-in-your-home/2015/02/19/af9b87be-b857-11e4-aa05-1ce812b3fdd2_story. html, available October 2021.
2https://www.rotorooter.com/blog/pipes/how-to-unfreeze-a-frozen-pipe/, accessed October 2021.

This article is provided by Nationwide Insurance, a Bolder Insurance partner.

The information included is designed for informational purposes only. It is not legal, tax, financial or any other form of advice, nor is it a substitute for such advice. The information may not apply to your specific situation. We have tried to ensure that the information is accurate, but it may be out of date or even incorrect in parts. It is the reader’s responsibility to comply with all applicable local, state or federal regulations. Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company, its affiliates and their employees make no guarantees about the information or guarantees of results, and they assume no liability in connection with the information provided. Nationwide, Nationwide is on your side, and Nationwide N and Eagle are service marks of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company. © 2021 Nationwide.

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