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How to Thaw a Frozen Pipe

The weather in Dallas-Fort Worth can be hard to predict, especially when it comes to freezing temperatures and snow. Even though we don’t deal with winter weather very often, during winter storms frozen pipes are considered the most common plumbing problem faced by Texans.  

Our winters have been getting colder and colder these last few years, however, many Texans have no idea what to do about frozen pipes, which is why we put together this step-by-step guide. Thawing a frozen pipe is quick and easy, but only if you do it the right way. Here are our recommendations:

1. Find the frozen sections of pipe.

The pipe most likely to freeze in your home are the exposed pipes under sinks, around your water meter, in crawl spaces, near exterior walls and outside. First, check these pipes for any obvious signs of freezing. They’ll be cold and frosted over, and (of course) their attached fixtures won’t work.

Even if you can’t see any obvious signs, the pipe could still be frozen. Find the frozen section of pipe by testing each faucet on your property. If you find one that doesn’t work, it means you’re close to the frozen section. Follow that faucet back to an uninsulated section of pipe and you’ll find the frozen section.

2. Turn on the faucet the pipe feeds into.

Determine which faucet the frozen pipe is supposed to supply water into and open it up. Turn both the hot and cold knobs. This serves two purposes. First, it relieves pressure inside the pipe, which can help prevent damage. Second, when the pipe thaws water will begin to flow out of the pipe. That’s how you’ll know you’ve successfully thawed out your frozen pipe.

3. Decide what you’re going to use to thaw the pipe.

To thaw a frozen pipe, soak towels in hot water and warp them around pipes. Start thawing nearest to the faucet. Make sure the faucet is turned on so melted water can drip out. Avoid using hair dryers, fans or torches around frozen pipes because of the risk of electric shock. Keep the heat moving to avoid overheating one section or another.

You’ll know when you’re thawing the ice inside the pipe because water will start running of the faucets. Never use open flames to thaw pipes – it never ends well. If the pipe’s hidden inside your walls or out of reach, we recommend calling plumbing professionals.

4. Prevent frozen pipes in the future.

After you’ve thawed your pipe, you’ll want to keep it from freezing again in the future. To do that, start by turning your home’s heating on as soon as temperatures drop. Keep interior doors open to help warm air flow through your home. Use your water fixtures regularly, especially in parts of the home where the pipes are exposed to cold.

If it’s going to be especially cold, consider opening up hot water faucets ever-so-slightly. When hot water faucets are open, warm water keeps running through the pipes, keeping them warm. You can also insulate at-risk sections of pipe relatively easily and cheaply.

If you suspect you have a frozen pipe and aren’t confident in tackling the thawing process yourself, don’t worry. The pros at Ben Franklin Plumbing are always ready to help you keep your home and your pipes safe.