How to Unfreeze a Frozen Pipe
One of the most common issues that people experience during the winter comes in the form of a frozen pipe. If not taken care of immediately, a frozen water supply pipe can burst and cause extensive and expensive water damage to your home. How do you know if a pipe is frozen? The biggest indicator is if you turn on your faucet and nothing comes out. If this is the case, it's time to get to work. Here's how to unfreeze a pipe - the right way:
Tools & Supplies
- Hair Dryer
- Space Heater (Optional)
- Heat Tape (Optional)
Step 1: Find the Frozen Pipe
Finding a frozen pipe isn't as easy as you might think it is, especially if you have a big house. Check in the most obvious areas, like beneath pier and beam homes in drafty unfinished basements or attics and uninsulated walls - where pipes are exposed to cold air. Once you find the frozen pipe, take action. Open the faucet that is connected to the frozen pipe, and identify the area where it's blocked sometimes it will have frost on the outside but more often than not, it looks like any other water pipe.
Step 2: Unfreeze the Pipe
Next, you need to put heat on the pipe – but no open flames! The fire risk is too great to risk using propane torches candles, or other open flames. Some people turn up their thermostat, but this isn't recommended as the only solution because it will take too long to get results. Do turn up your heat, and open your sink cabinets with pipes beneath them so the warm air circulates around pipes. However, also use a handheld hair dryer back and forth along the pipe. Make sure you're doing this evenly: Otherwise, the pipe could rupture. You can also place a space heater nearby but keep it at least three feet away from wall materials to prevent a fire.
You could also purchase some heat tape, sometimes called heat cable, from your local hardware store. Simply wrap it around the pipe evenly and plug it in. The cable will warm up the pipe and thaw the frozen ice. Apply heat until the water flow is restored. Be careful with heat tape. Some homeowners make the mistake of leaving it on their pipes year round, which increases the chances of a fire.
How Long does it Take for Pipes to Unfreeze?
Pipes usually begin to freeze at 20 degrees so bringing the temperature of the pipe above that is crucial. The time it takes for a pipe to unfreeze is based on a number of factors such as weather, how long they've been frozen and where they are located. Typically, you can unfreeze a pipe in thirty minutes, but depending on those mentioned factors and your method of unfreezing, it can take longer.
Will Frozen Pipes Thaw on Their Own?
Pipes will eventually unfreeze on their own naturally, but this takes far more time and before thawing occurs the freezing could become much worse. This could eventually lead to the pipe bursting and causing significantly more damage. It's better to proactively thaw a frozen pipe size than let it persist.
What if the pipe bursts?
If your water supply pipe does burst, turn off the building’s water valve immediately to limit water damage. Call Roto-Rooter 24/7 to fix the pipe and provide professional water damage cleanup services.
If you run into any problems unfreezing a pipe, be sure to give your Roto-Rooter plumber a call. Roto-Rooter is equipped with professional grade pipe thawing equipment that can be employed before a pipe bursts and causes water damage.