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Frozen Pipes? Thaw Out With These 5 Steps

Frozen pipes? Yikes! Learn how to troubleshoot your icy pipes with these DIY thawing tips.

With extreme cold weather, the flow of cold air can cause pipes to freeze. What do you do when this happens? Your best bet is to call in a Pro. In the meantime, our Home Managers have put together some tips on how to troubleshoot frozen pipes yourself.

Step 1: Locate the Frozen Pipe

Turn on the faucets in your home one by one. If no water comes out, or only a trickle dribbles out, then a pipe leading to the faucet is likely frozen.

If the pipes are exposed—such as pipes under sinks, in basements, in your attic, in your garage, or along the exterior of your home—you may be able to see the frozen portion of the pipe. Frozen pipes often have frost on them or may have a slight bulge. If the blockage is located in parts of the pipe that you have access to, you’ll have more options for thawing the pipe than if the frozen portion is enclosed behind a wall.

Step 2: Open the Faucets

Turn on the cold water on to a trickle at the highest point of your home (top floor). Simultaneously, turn on the cold water to just a trickle at the lowest point of your home (basement). This will help relieve pressure in the plumbing system and allow the water to escape once you begin to thaw the pipe.

Step 3: Thaw at the Exit

Open the blocked faucet fully to let any melted water get out. Then begin troubleshooting the thawing process near the blocked faucet and work your way down to the blockage. This will help ensure that the melting ice and steam is able to escape through the open faucet. If you start thawing closer to the blockage, the melting ice could become stuck behind the blockage, creating more pressure and increasing the chances of your pipes bursting.

Step 4: Thaw Exposed Pipes

One of the easiest DIY methods to thawing a pipe is by using a hair dryer. Simply turn the dryer on and point the heat at the pipe, beginning with the portion closest to the faucet. As with any electrical product, take proper precautions and avoid coming into contact with water when operating the dryer.

Another method you can try is to use a portable space heater. Position the device so that the heat is able to reach the frozen pipe. Again, take precaution when operating the device such as keeping the minimum recommended distance. Thawing can take several hours.

If your pipe is not exposed, you can try turning up the thermostat to the maximum temperature. This will heat up your walls but depending on the outside temperature, might take a very long time.

Important: Never attempt to thaw a pipe using an open flame, such as a propane torch. This can not only damage the pipe, it is also a significant fire and safety hazard. Safety first!

Pro Tip: When using hair dryers or heat lamps on a frozen pipe close to the wall, slide a cookie sheet or aluminum foil between the pipe and the wall to reflect as much heat as possible towards the pipe.

Step 5: Leave Thawing Enclosed Pipes to the Pros

At Setter, we highly recommend hiring a Pro to attend to frozen pipes that are enclosed and not easily accessible. Improperly attempting to thaw an enclosed pipe can lead to further damage that will result in even more expensive repairs. If you need help with this, your Home Manager is always available to help you finds the right Pro and get the job done right—guaranteed.

If Your Pipe Bursts

If the frozen water pipe bursts, the first thing you should do is shut off the main water line into your home. This will prevent additional water from flowing and causing more damage. Your main shut-off valve is often located near the water meter or in your maintenance room.

If your pipe does burst or your water flow does not return to normal after several hours of troubleshooting yourself, your Setter Home Manager is always available to help you. Simply click the button below to speak to your Home Manager today.