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How Do You Thaw Frozen Pipes?

With cold weather hitting many parts of the country, homeowners face the possibility of their pipes freezing.

This could be more than an inconvenience – frozen pipes can burst and flood your home, leading to major water damage that your homeowners’ insurance may not cover.

We’re sharing our favorite tips on how to thaw a frozen pipe before it becomes a burst pipe and a big problem!

Which pipes are frozen?

First things first – before you thaw a frozen pipe, you have to first figure out where it is! It might not be obvious. Turn on all of the faucets in your house. If there’s barely a trickle of water or no water at all, the pipe that leads to that faucet is probably frozen. If you have exposed pipes in your house, you will probably be able to see which ones are frozen just by looking at them – they may be bulging or have frost on them.

Before you start trying to thaw the pipes, turn on both the hot and cold handles of the faucet that’s connected to the frozen pipe. We recommend starting the thawing process as close to the faucet as possible to allow the melting ice to escape through it. Otherwise, the ice could get trapped behind the blockage, and the pipe could burst.

Remember to follow all safety precautions so you don’t accidentally start a fire.

Thawing a visible pipe

It’s obviously a lot easier to thaw a pipe that you can easily access. Here a few methods you can try:

  • Turn on your hair dryer: An easy way to thaw a frozen pipe is by taking a hair dryer and blowing the hot air onto the pipe, again starting with the part of the pipe that is closest to the faucet!
  • Use a hot towel: Take a hot towel and wrap it around the pipe, which will help to thaw the ice.
  • Grab a portable space heater: If you have a portable space heater or a heat lamp, turn it on and place it next to the pipe (and remember to keep it away from water!)
  • Apply electrical heating tape: Putting electrical heating tape on the frozen pipe will spread heat throughout the pipe and cause the ice to melt.

Thawing an enclosed pipe

Thawing a pipe that you can’t see is a little bit trickier, but there are some tried-and-true ways of tackling the problem:

  • Turn your heat up! Depending on how much ice blockage the pipe has, turning up the thermostat may thaw out the pipe.
  • Use an infrared lamp: Take an infrared lamp and put it in front of the part of the wall where the frozen pipe is.

What to do if your pipe bursts

If your pipe bursts as you’re attempting to thaw it out, you should immediately shut off the main water line. If you don’t know where that is, here’s a quick guide on how to find it.

Preventing your pipes from freezing

You should still take steps to prevent frozen pipes, particularly if you live in a climate where the temperatures often dips below freezing. Heat cables, which have thermostats that will read your pipe’s temperatures and turn the heat on if the temperature gets too low, are a good solution. You should use heat cable in conjunction with pipe insulation, especially in unheated areas like crawl spaces, your attic, and your garage.

If you have a frozen pipe and you need help thawing it, give Benjamin Franklin Plumbing a call today at 1-888-BEN-1776 or contact us online!