Tips on How to Identify and Thaw Frozen Pipes

 In Home Plumbing

Whenever the temperature drops below freezing there is an opportunity for water to turn into ice. This is not normally a problem for pipes that have been drained and/or are safe within a the warm confines of a home or property. However, pipes that have water in them and are in areas that have not been properly insulated are at high risk of freezing, which means they are at high risk for becoming burst pipes as when water freezes it expands and can exert as much as 2,000 lbs per square inch on the surrounding pipe. Needless to say, this force is more than enough to burst a pipe.

While we always recommend seeking a professional Toronto plumbing service to deal with frozen pipes, we know that there are some DIY adventurers out there that way want to take matters into their own hands. Here are a few tips that you can attempt (at your own risk) for thawing a frozen pipe. Before we set out on this pipe thawing journey, we want to make it clear that we in no way endorse the use of open flames to thaw pipes, this means propane heaters or torches, it is simply too dangerous and has led to fires in the past.

The first tip is a very important one, if you’ve discovered a pipe that has frozen and has burst, it’s important that you shut off your water at the main supply as soon as possible.

High-Risk Frozen Pipe Locations

There are a few areas that you will most commonly find frozen pipes,

  • In an unheated crawlspace or bulkhead near an exterior wall
  • Any pipes located close to, or within, an exterior wall
  • Pipes located beneath a sink and near, or within, an exterior wall
  • Any pipes in a property that has not had heating during extremely cold weather

Many people will decide to retreat away from the cold Toronto weather to a warmer climate, for those unfortunate few that have forgotten (or neglected) to ensure their home has appropriate heating during these times, it is not uncommon for them to return to frozen pipes or even burst pipes. We’ve addressed these issues in a previous blog post which may interest those who wish to learn more about completely winterizing your Toronto home.

Now you know where to look for frozen pipes, when you have found one (that has not burst) what can you do?

Time to Thaw That Icy Pipe

First, open the faucet that is supplied by the frozen pipe. Trace the pipes route through your property; see if you can identify the area that is frozen. It will most likely be the coldest area that the pipe travels through, if this is a large area, than you may be dealing with a sizeable length of frozen pipe. The pipe may be clearly iced over or have frost on it. If the pipe is nearly burst, it may even look like it has a bulge or is close to bursting.

When working on your frozen pipes its important to remember to keep the water main open, and thaw the pipe from the faucet side towards to the main. This will allow the water pressure from the main to flow through to the faucet as it is slowly melted away.

Frozen Pipe Inside Of Home

If the pipe is frozen inside of your home and you can easily turn up your heating, this is the best course of action, simply increasing the ambient temperature can be one of the easiest ways to handle a frozen pipe. Additionally, it may be necessary to cut out a section of your drywall to get direct access to the pipe and heat up the location quickly. Infrared heat lamps can also be employed to directly heat the wall more efficiently.

Frozen Pipe in Exposed Location

There are a number of ways to deal with a frozen pipe that you have direct access to, one of the simplest ways is to get out your hair dryer. Remember to heat the pipe up from the section closest to the faucet towards the water main. If the pipe is close to a wall, you can place a cookie sheet on the opposite side of the pipe while using your hair dryer, which will heat up and radiate heat towards the backside of the pipe.

Another great way to thaw an exposed pipe is to use a heat lamp, infrared or incandescent will both do a great job at thawing a pipe. Again, if the pipe is near to the wall a cookie sheet on the other side of the pipe will help to radiate heat to the backside of the pipe.

Hire a Professional

While some situations can be handled by homeowners, safely locating and thawing a frozen pipe properly is best left up to the professionals. If you suspect your pipes have frozen in your Toronto home you can contact us 24/7 to handle this problem for you at 416-252-5557 or by visiting our online Toronto plumbing contact form.

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