Nobody wants to come home to a flooded house after a nice winter vacation. Unfortunately, this is exactly what would happen if one of your water pipes bursts during your trip or even while you’re at home. When this occurs, you’ll have to deal with the hassle of bailing water out of your home using mops, sponges, and towels. If you don’t do this, you can end up with mold and mildew growth, which won’t only damage your property but will also expose you to a wide range of illnesses. You might even discover that the flooding caused by your burst pipe has damaged the foundation of your house.
Luckily, you don’t have to sit back and watch these problems unfold. After all, you can do a few things to prevent frozen water pipes from bursting. These include the following.
Turning Off Your Water Supply
Two of the most common signs of a frozen valve is 1) a faucet that no longer flows and 2) a toilet that doesn’t refill when you flush it. When you notice either of these, turn off your main water shut-off valve right away. Doing this prevents water from flowing into your blocked pipes and increasing the pressure inside them. These, in turn, can reduce the likelihood of frozen pipes bursting.
Don’t know where your main water shut-off valve is located? It’s time to look for it as early as possible. This way, when the time comes that you need to turn it off, you can do so right away without wasting time hunting for it. Once you find the valve, ask your plumber to inspect it. Depending on its condition, he may recommend to replace it with a new model or make a few adjustments to ensure that it’s easy to rotate.
Thawing Your Pipes ASAP
After turning off your main water shut-off valve, you need to locate where the frozen pipe is. Knowing its location will determine the next steps you should take.
If the frozen pipe is exposed, you can use a hair dryer or a heat lamp to warm it and thaw the ice inside. Make sure to warm the pipe from the faucet to the frozen area, not the other way around. Doing so will ensure that the melted ice can flow out of the faucet instead of getting trapped inside the pipe and causing it to burst.
You can also use a portable space heater to speed up the process, particularly if the pipe is located inside a cabinet or vanity. If the pipe is near a power source, you can wrap electrical heat tape around it; the tape will warm and unfreeze the pipe once it’s plugged into an outlet.
If the frozen pipe is located behind a wall, turn up the thermostat in the house and wait for a couple of hours for the ice to melt. If this doesn’t work, you may have to cut a hole in the wall using a keyhole saw. This way, you can directly access the pipe and warm it using your hair dryer or heat lamp. Remember this, though: before cutting through your wall, you have to be certain of the location of the frozen pipe. Otherwise, you’ll damage a perfectly good wall for nothing.
Being Careful When Unfreezing Your Pipes
The steps mentioned above are pretty helpful in unfreezing pipes and are usually enough to thaw yours at home. If you discover another technique for thawing frozen water pipes, read about it first or ask a trusted plumber if it’s safe and effective. Doing these is important to ensure you won’t damage your home or put yourself at risk for injuries.
Some people don’t do their homework and use a propane torch or any other type of open-flame torch to thaw frozen pipes. This can be dangerous since the pipe will heat up too quickly and will most likely explode. The torch can even cause a house fire, which can partially or even fully damage the property.
The same principle applies to pouring boiling water directly over frozen pipes since doing so will also lead to bursting, damaged pipes. If you must use boiling water, wrap the pipes in rags and pour the water over them. Alternatively, you can get a towel, soak it in hot water, wring it out to remove the excess water, and wrap it around the pipe. Make sure to wear rubber gloves to protect your hands from scalding.
Even if you’re using a simple hair dryer or heat lamp to unfreeze frozen pipes, you still need to be careful. Don’t place the lamp or dryer directly on the pipe since the sudden heat can damage it and make it burst. Don’t focus on just one part of the pipe; instead, run it back and forth along a large section to heat the pipe evenly and prevent it from rupturing. If your pipes are made of PVC, make sure to limit the heat to 140°F (or 60°C) so you won’t damage them.
Getting The Help Of a Plumber
If you see that your frozen pipes have leaks or even just small hairline cracks, call your plumber ASAP. This way, he can fix the pipe and prevent the cracks or leaks from growing and wreaking havoc on your home.
If your pipes have burst despite all your efforts, get in touch with your plumber right away. While waiting for him to arrive, dry the area as much as possible. Use mops, towels, and sponges to remove the water, and use a dehumidifier to erase the last traces of moisture. Taking these steps will prevent mold and mildew from growing in your home. Don’t forget to call your insurance agent and inform him about what happened.
Preventing Pipes From Getting Frozen
One of the best ways to avoid burst pipes is to prevent them from freezing in the first place. Frozen garden hoses that are attached to spigots can increase the pressure of your entire plumbing system, so remove and store hoses before winter sets in. Wrap pipes in rags or specially designed sponge covers to insulate them and keep them warm.
Leave faucets slightly open; flowing water has less time to freeze than water that’s standing still. You can also increase the thermostat in your home. You might have to deal with a large heating bill later on, but you’ll at least save yourself from the cost and hassle that bursting pipes bring.