How to keep pipes from freezing?

First, before the first freeze, locate any pipes that are at risk of freezing.  The obvious places to look are water supply pipes coming into the home, water lines in the garage, and irrigation pipes and outdoor silcocks (outside valves) that may not be properly insulated.

Then, when it freezes, the most usual and easiest corrections are, 1) Keep your garage doors closed, 2) Open lower kitchen and cabinet doors to allow warm air to circulate around the plumbing, 3) If it becomes very cold outside consider dripping water from the inside faucets served by pipes you think are exposed, 4) and, for many older homes, you may find a shut off valve in the basement rafter that shuts off water to an outside silcock. If your basement ceiling is finished there should be an access door to that shutoff valve somewhere in the ceiling between the main water supply source and the outside silcock.

But there are many more things that can cause problems.  Here is a list you should consider.  You may not need to do all of the following but fixing potential problems now may save you from bigger problems later.

  • The first thing to do is to locate the water main cut-off valve. You’ll need to know where this is so you can turn off the water supply before attempting to thaw out frozen pipes.
  • Insulate any pipes in the basement, attic, and exterior walls (if accessible). Snap-on foam insulation can be used. Make sure foam insulation fits tightly. Apply duct tape to the joints in insulation, and cover foam around elbows, so the joints in the foam around the pipes are completely covered.
  • Insulate hot and cold water pipes if you have crawlspace under your home.  If your home has a crawlspace, make sure the foundation is enclosed, and fill gaps in the foundation walls with caulking or expanding foam. Close the foundation vents under your home during extremely cold weather.
  • Turn off your sprinkler system. Be sure to also turn off the sprinkler system water supply at the source, usually next to the main water line input. Some sprinkler systems are self draining.  If yours is not self draining, then you need to have a specialist blow compressed air through the irrigation lines to drain the water.
  • Weather strip exterior basement windows and doors.
  • Disconnect and drain garden hoses.
  • To protect exterior faucets around your foundation, either cover faucets with insulated foam covers, or, in really cold climates, install exterior faucets that cut water supply off from inside foundation walls.
  • A UL approved heat tape that has a built-in thermostat to prevent overheating can be used on exposed pipes. Be careful to follow the instructions that come with heat tape.  It can cause a fire hazard if used improperly.
  • As mentioned above, when the cold weather comes, drip both hot and cold water at faucets in the kitchen and bathrooms. This will keep water moving through the pipes and relieve pressure in the pipes if they should freeze. Set single lever faucets in the center so both hot and cold lines drip, especially if you have pipes in outside walls.
  • If the laundry room water supply is against an exterior wall and if there isn’t a faucet in the laundry room to drip, set your washing machine on warm, and every so often start the fill cycle for a few minutes to run water through the pipes.

How to Thaw Frozen Pipes

OK, so you didn’t winterize your home before that first freeze and now you have a frozen pipe.  Here are a few things you can try to thaw a frozen pipe.

  • You should have already located the water cut off valve – now you need to turn the water off.  Turning this valve off will shut off all the water in your home!
  • Now open the faucet that is connected to the frozen pipe. You should get a trickle of water. Open both the hot and cold faucets.
  • Then, use one of the following methods to thaw the pipe.  Be sure to start the thawing process between the faucet and the freeze – then work your way down to the blockage.  This lets any thawed water seep out of the faucet, not behind the blockage, which can cause further problems by creating pressure in the pipe behind the blockage and causing the pipe to burst.
    • Hair dryer – Turn on the dryer and point at the pipe closest to the faucet.
    • Heat lamp – Set the heat lamp close to the pipe, again, nearest the faucet and work your way to the blockage.
    • Hot towels – This takes time but can work with a smaller blockage.
    • Heating tape – This is tape that you apply directly to the pipe.  You’ll need to plug the tape into an electric outlet.
    • Turn up the heat in your home – sounds obvious but this works for many minor blockages.
  • Then, if all else fails, call a professional – If you can’t thaw the pipe yourself or can’t find the frozen pipe, call us.  We can fix it for you.
  • Or, if it’s something not listed above just call us at 303-953-8695.

What to do if a pipe bursts?

Well, we can say ‘Told you so’, but that’s not fair.

  • The first thing to do is shut off the water supply main line into your home.  This will prevent additional water from entering your home and damaging your property.
  • Call S.G. Rooter.  We’ll get your water back on as soon as possible.  303-953-8695.