Technically, water pipes CAN thaw out on their own but the danger is that the longer the pipes are frozen, the higher the chances are of them bursting and when they do, the cost to repair the damage can be extremely high. In fact, the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety reports that the damage can run as high as $5,000!
Before we go further into thawing pipes, read our article on How To Prevent our Water Pipes From Freezing.
Do Pipes Burst When They Thaw?
Most homeowners believe that pipes burst when they freeze, but the truth is, pipes burst when they thaw.
When the water in the pipe freezes, it expands so that works to weaken the pipes and increases the pressure within the pipes but it doesn't necessarily make them burst. Once the frozen water begins to melt it begins flowing towards the faucet (which is closed), increasing the pressure within the pipes even more and causing them to burst.
How Can You Tell If Your Pipes Are Frozen?
So, how would you know that your pipes are frozen? Any one of the signs below would be an indicator of frozen pipes.
- If the temperature outside drops below freezing (32 degrees fahrenheit) - that's a good sign that your pipes would have been frozen, especially if they are not insulated
- If your pipes are exposed, check to see if there is a layer of frost on the pipes
- If there is no water coming out of your faucet(s)
- If the water coming out of your faucet(s) is coming out in drips
- If there is an odor coming out of your faucet(s)
- If you notice any wet spots on your drywall or ceiling, carpets or floors
How Do You Thaw Frozen Pipes Quickly?
So, you've identified the fact that you have frozen pipes in your house. Now what can you do to thaw them out as quickly as possible?
- First things first - turn off the water supply to your home.
- Safety - DO NOT USE A PROPANE TORCH to thaw the pipe
- Instead, use a space heater, a heat lamp or a hair dryer to thaw the pipe
- Then wrap it in thermostatically controlled heat tape
This method should help you to thaw your pipes quickly but we still recommend that you keep checking them for the possibility of any leaks.
Can Pipes Freeze And Not Burst?
Of course, nothing is 100% so if pipes freeze, the chances of them bursting and leaking are high but it's not necessarily a done deal.
Still, the very best thing that you can do if the weather is going to dip below freezing is to follow these steps to help to prevent your pipes from freezing in the first place.
- Keep your garage doors closed to retain as much heat as you can inside your garage.
- Open the kitchen and bathroom cabinets (in case there are any pipes behind those cabinets).
- Turn a faucet on so that water drips (leave it on while the temperature is 20 degrees or lower). This forces water to run through the pipes and helps to prevent sitting water from freezing.
- Keep your thermostat at the same temperature during the day and night.
- Any insulation that you can add to your home, in the walls, wrapping pipes, windows, cracks in doors, etc. will help to prevent your water pipes from bursting and creating and expensive mess.
If you have any questions about frozen pipes, call Atlantis Plumbing today at 770-505-8570. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
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