This DIY can help you with the following:
- A frozen water pipe (you turn on the water in winter, but nothing comes out)
- Preventing a pipe from freezing
What you need to know:
As water freezes, it can exert tremendous pressure, forcing open plastic or even metal pipes. Once they burst, the flooding and damage begins.
Pipes in outside walls, under outside wall sinks, or in crawlspaces that are unheated are the most vulnerable to freezing.
What you may need:
- Infrared lamp
- Hair dryer
- Small space heater
- Electrical pipe heating tape
How to fix it:
- Examine the pipes if you can. Follow the pipe all the way back to the main water supply if possible. Look for frost, swelling or other signs of freezing. See if they've already burst. If they haven't, skip to step 3.
- If the pipe has burst, shut off the water supply immediately. You may only need to shut off the water supply to that pipe. If you can't find it, shut off the main water supply in your house. Contact us if you're not sure where that is. We're also able to help you fix a burst pipe without flooding your house.
- Turn on the faucet connected to the frozen pipe. That way you can tell when you've thawed the pipe enough to remove the blockage.
If the frozen pipe is not accessible:
- If you can't see where the pipe has frozen, it may be behind a wall or ceiling. You'll need to do one of three things:
- Turn the heat up in your house and wait for the pipe to thaw on its own.
- Heat the section of the wall or ceiling where the pipe is located until the pipe underneath thaws. An infrared lamp works better than a space heater or regular heat lamp, as it will direct the heat better.
- Open up the wall or ceiling to get access to the pipe, then follow the steps below for an exposed pipe.
If the frozen pipe is accessible:
- If the pipe is under a sink, in an unfinished basement wall, or otherwise visible, AND HAS NOT BURST YET, heat the pipe to remove the blockage. (DON'T use a blowtorch; you may cause a fire or explosion.)
- Use a hair dryer on its highest heat setting. Heat the pipe starting from the faucet and working your way towards the frozen section of the pipe. If there's room, insert a metal cookie sheet behind the pipe to reflect heat onto it from the back.
- Point an infrared heat lamp at the pipe. Use the cookie sheet trick if you can.
- Put a small portable space heater near the pipe on its highest setting.
If you have pipes that freeze regularly:
- Consider covering the pipe with electrical heat tape. The tape has a heating element, like a heater, that will keep the pipe warm enough to prevent freezing. The tape plugs into an electrical socket, and you can plug it in whenever it gets cold enough outside for pipes to freeze.
- Leave the faucet on. Open the faucet connected to the pipe just enough to allow a little water to flow out of it. The continuous flow of water should prevent freezing.
- Open the cabinet. Leave the doors open to the cabinet where the pipe is located, so that warm air from the room can get at it.
- Add a small space heater on low for extra heat in cabinets and crawlspaces.
- Add foam insulation wrappers to problem pipes (available at hardware stores).
- Remove garden hoses. A garden hose still attached to an outside tap can damage the pipe inside your house, so make sure you remove them before winter.
Still having problems?
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