What to Do When Your Pipes Are Frozen

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Severe Winter weather can mean your water pipes are frozen and that can often be prevented.

woman on floor by burst pipe in wall

Getting up early on a cold winter morning to find your pipes are frozen is no fun. There are some simple things you can do to prevent frozen pipes and some things to do when you find frozen pipes.

Our weather forecast called for colder temperatures overnight than we are accustomed to here in the south. We knew there was a possibility that the pipes could freeze so we took some preventative measures. It wasn’t quite enough.

The day our pipes froze, low temperature broke a record set back in 1985, almost 30 years ago!

What to Do When The Pipes Freeze

There are a few things you will have to do right away if your pipes are frozen.

Find the frozen pipe

Chances are excellent that the frozen pipe is located in either the basement, crawl space, attic, exterior wall, or under a sink.

Sometimes the frozen pipe can be inside of an exterior wall, as in my case. My frozen pipe was in the laundry room wall where the water enters the house.

Keep the faucet open

Opening the water faucet nearest the frozen pipe will help to relieve pressure on the pipe. You only want a tiny little drip, not fully open. As the pipe begins to thaw, running water through the lines will assist with the thawing process.

Check for leaks if possible

If your frozen pipes are visible, check for leaks before you open the faucets. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, right.

Call a professional plumber

If you find a burst pipe or a leak, call a plumber. Turn off the whole house water supply and call a plumber to prevent further damage.

How to apply heat to frozen pipes

Carefully apply heat to the area of the pipe which is frozen. Here are a few ideas that have been proven to work for thawing frozen pipes.

  • Wrap an electric heating pad around the pipe
  • uUse a blow dryer on that section of pipe.
  • If the pipe is located in an area where you can place an electric space heater safely, that can help as well.
  • Never use a blowtorch or any open flame on a frozen pipe!
  • Call a licensed plumber if the area of frozen pipe is not accessible
  • Open cabinet doors to expose pipes to interior heat, especially for areas which are on an outside wall as with most kitchens
cars in garage coated in ice
Photo courtesy of Rocky Mountain Insulation Corp

Tips to prevent frozen pipes

Insulate, insulate, insulate. Pipe insulation is the best prevention.

Insulate your exposed water pipes

Use Freeze Alarm

Consider using a Freeze Alarm. This one by Ring is not expensive and installs in minutes without tools.

Kitchen pipes

Leave the kitchen cabinet doors open so the heat can get in and help prevent them from freezing.

Rooms with no heat

In my case, we are talking about a small laundry room with no heat. Our frozen pipes could have been prevented if I had left the laundry room door open to the den so heat could have gotten in.

Rooms with water lines in the exterior walls need access to heat to prevent the pipes from freezing.

How I Thawed My Frozen Pipes

In our case, our home is totally electric and has a well for water. We left two faucets dripping on opposite ends of the house, unhooked the water hose from the faucet outside, and wrapped our well in heavy insulation. But the pipes still froze inside of an exterior wall.

The pipes froze anyway! We have one of those handy whole house water cut-off valves located in our laundry room which is where the water enters the house in its normal flow.

The laundry room is the only room in the house without air vents which means that the room is cold in the winter and hot in the summer. That is where the pipes froze.

I set a small electric space heater facing the wall where the water comes into the house in the laundry room.

The cut-off valve felt very cold and that particular wall was very cold, even though it is an interior wall. It was worth the effort to heat that room and hope for the best. I set the electric heater facing the cold wall. About an hour later, the water was flowing again!

The best information I found online about thawing frozen pipes safely was on the Red Cross site. They provide information on Preventing & Thawing Frozen Pipes.

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a burst water pipe and two cars covered in ice in a garage

Updated 1-16-22

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11 Comments

  1. Having been in the business for over 10 years I would say that the most common call in the winter is due to frozen pipes. Most of the time I actually tell my customers to use a blow dryer before I come in but occasionally that’s not enough. Hope that helps anyone who stumbles across this!

  2. Thanks for this, we have had some crazy frozen pipe problems here in Loganville, GA this past week. Even the little things like leaving the cabinets open to keep the warm air circulating, really does help.

    Hope people read this before the freeze!

    1. Well, I sure am glad it is just that one pipe for you and not the one coming into the house. Our frozen pipe was the one coming into the house, so there was literally no water until it thawed. Oh the joys of winter. I shall be better prepared next time:-)

  3. Thanks for sharing these tips. I have never really thought about this issue and never had the problem. Three days ago the cold water pipe in my tub was frozen. I placed a small electric heater in the bathroom near the tub and turned on the faucet of the frozen side. It work. Thanks for linking the FEMA video. Sometimes we don’t think about the simple things. We just do what we do as a routine.

    1. Ah, great minds think alike! That FEMA video is really a great device for folks who don’t realize the dangers of space heaters. I hate hearing those horror stories in the news every winter. I wish I could go door to door and educate people about it.

We enjoying hearing from you!