Guide: How to prevent frozen pipes, and what to do if they freeze

If your pipes freeze, there is the possibility that they might break which can lead to flooding.

Sandrina Rodrigues

Nov 29, 2023, 9:30 AM

Updated 228 days ago

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It’s time to prepare your water pipes for the freezing cold winter.
If your pipes freeze, there is the possibility that they might break which can lead to flooding.
According to the Red Cross, pipes that freeze most frequently are:
Pipes that are exposed to severe cold, like outdoor hose bibs, swimming pool supply lines, and water sprinkler lines.
Water supply pipes in unheated interior areas like basements and crawl spaces, attics, garages, or kitchen cabinets.
Pipes that run against exterior walls that have little or no insulation.
With a little forethought and insulation, you can protect yourself from the headaches and costs associated with frozen pipes, the Water Authority of Western Nassau says. 
Below are some tips to help you prevent frozen pies, and what to do if they freeze:

ELIMINATE DRAFTS

Close off crawl space vents and doors. Repair broken or cracked basement windows. Make sure basement windows and doors close tightly, and seal any cracks in the wall. Even a small crack, combined with low temperatures and high winds, can freeze nearby pipes and meters, even if the surrounding area is warm.

DRAIN LINES

Drain water from swimming pools and water sprinkler supply lines following manufacturer's or installer's directions. Do not put antifreeze in these lines unless directed. Antifreeze is environmentally harmful, and is dangerous to humans, pets, wildlife, and landscaping.
Remove, drain, and store hoses used outdoors. Close inside valves supplying outdoor hose bibs. Open the outside hose bibs to allow water to drain. Keep the outside valve open so that any water remaining in the pipe can expand without causing the pipe to break.

INSULATE

Insulate pipe in unheated areas of your home with weatherproof insulation which is available at hardware or plumbing supply stores.

CIRCULATE WARM AIR

Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warm air to circulate around the pipes. Keep the doors to rooms where the pipes and water meter are located open so warm air can keep temperatures above freezing.

DRIP

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.

MASTER VALVE

All family members should know where the master valve is located and how to operate it. This valve should be in good working order. 

THAW IT

If you can get to the frozen pipe, chances are you will be able to thaw it out. BUT - never use boiling water, a heat gun or a flame to thaw pipes. This can cause the pipes to burst.

HOT WATER

Soak a heavy cloth or towel in hot water and wrap it around the pipe where it is frozen. Then slowly pour hot water over the cloth.

HAIR DRYER

Use a portable hair dryer and slowly apply heat to the pipe. Put it on the low heat setting and slowly wave back and forth along the area of the freeze.

STEAM

If it is under a sink with a cabinet, put one or two large pots of boiling water inside the cabinet and the steam will help to thaw out the pipe.

HEAT WRAP

Install heat wrap around the pipes and let it thaw out. The heat wrap can also be installed in cold areas before it gets cold to help prevent the pipes from freezing.

PLUMBER

If the frozen area is not accessible, or if you can not thaw the pipe, call a licensed plumber.


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