Avoiding a Plumbing Catastrophe: Frozen Pipes

As temperatures drop and everyone starts to enjoy the cooler weather, many are not aware of a potential plumbing catastrophe that may be threatening to their home. Frozen pipes can happen without warning, and can result in pipes bursting. By recognizing the signs of frozen pipes and taking the proper steps to thaw them, you can keep your home safe from the costly water damage burst pipes can cause.

What causes frozen pipes to burst?

During the winter, water in an unprotected pipe can freeze and expand, causing tremendous pressure. This pressure can cause a slight crack at a joint or section of the pipe, giving way to a small leak. If the leak goes unfixed, water can leak into your home and cause damage that’s expensive to repair.

Even in Arizona, where temperatures don’t often fall to extreme lows, temperatures can reach levels that put pipes in danger of freezing. In fact, homes in places such as Arizona are at an increased risk of pipes bursting, as they are often not adequately insulated against low temperatures.

What are the signs of frozen pipes?

Frozen pipes have a number of recognizable signs that can happen long before the pipes are in danger of bursting. If you notice one or more of the following signs, you should try thawing your pipes or calling a plumber before the problem becomes more severe.

No running water

If you turn on your faucet and find that you have little to no running water, your pipes may be blocked as a result of being frozen. If you try running the water for a few minutes and don’t notice any improvement, it may be time to call a plumber to help restore your pipes.

Visible frost on pipes

Find time to check your pipes during the cooler season. Visible frost is one of the easiest signs of frozen pipes to recognize. If your pipes have frost on the outside, they are probably frozen on the inside—particularly if they feel cold to the touch and leave condensation behind.

Strange smells

If your drains, sinks, or toilets have a strong odor, this can be a sign of frozen pipes. A sewage smell indicates that your pipes are not doing their job, and are not successfully transporting sewage from your home due to frozen pipes. Water that has a strong smell, or is discolored in any way, could also be a sign that your pipes are blocked as a result of freezing.

How can you thaw frozen pipes?

Pipes located behind walls or in the ceiling can be thawed by turning up the heat and waiting for signs that the pipes are no longer frozen—such as improved water flow. Infrared heat lamps can also be used to thaw pipes by generating heat that passes through walls. Simply place the lamp against the wall near the frozen pipe, and wait for signs that your pipes are no longer frozen.

Exposed pipes can be easier to thaw, as they’re easier to access. An easy way to thaw a frozen pipe is using a hair dryer, heat lamp, or space heater to warm up the pipe. Another option is to wrap the pipe in a hot towel or blanket. If you’re not comfortable thawing your pipes yourself, you can always call a professional plumber.

What should you do about a burst pipe?

If they’re not dealt with right away, frozen pipes can burst, causing immense water damage in your home. In this emergency situation, the best thing to do is call your plumber. At Chas Roberts, we provide 24-hour emergency plumbing services for events such as burst pipes. Our professionals respond promptly to any size emergency, with no additional fee during off-hours.

While you wait for the plumber to arrive, you can minimize flooding and damage to your home by following these steps:

1.      Shut off the water

Shutting off the water in your home quickly is crucial in preventing further water damage and a larger mess. Your home should be equipped with a main water shutoff valve that is likely located on an exterior wall.

If you don’t know where your main water shutoff valve is located, take some time to look around the exterior of your home before an emergency happens. That way, you’ll be prepared to act fast and save your home from damage.

2.      Turn off electricity

Because of the risk of electrocution or fires, you should turn off your electricity if flooding has occurred. That way, you and your family will be safe as you wait for the plumber to arrive. Every home should have a circuit breaker or service panel that turns off power to the entire home. This may be located in the garage, or another space away from the main living area of the home.

3.      Locate the burst pipe

Locating the broken pipe can help you get to the root of the emergency, and take steps to stop or slow down the flooding yourself. If the pipe is under a sink or cabinet and can be easily accessed, you can attempt to stop the water with a towel or other methods.

While it can be difficult to locate the pipe burst, you can look for signs such as:

  • Damp spots on your wall
  • Pools of water on the floor
  • The sounds of water spraying or dripping

If you can’t locate the burst pipe, don’t worry—your plumber will be able to find it when they arrive.

4.      Remove as much water as you can

You should remove as much water as possible with mops, buckets, and towels to minimize damage. While doing so, you should also move any important belongings away from the flooded areas to a safe place away from the water.

5.      Call a water restoration company

Opening windows, using fans, and running a water vacuum over flooded areas may not completely remove water damage. Untreated moisture in your floors or walls creates the opportunity for mold and mildew to form and can negatively impact the health of everyone in your home. Only a licensed water restoration company has the experience and equipment necessary to remove all signs of water damage from your home.

How can frozen pipes be prevented?

Frozen pipes can be a potentially dangerous hassle, but the good news is they’re completely preventable. If you take the right steps, you can enjoy the peace of mind of knowing your pipes are safe from bursting, no matter how low the temperatures get.

Allow faucets to drip

Allowing your faucets to drip continuously when the weather is cold can prevent pipes from bursting. A small flow of water every now and then for a short amount of time, will have little to no impact on your monthly water bill, and it will potentially save you from the costly plumbing emergency of burst pipes.

Keep the heat on

If you are going on vacation or will be away for an extended period of time, you should leave your thermostat above 55°. This will keep your home at a high enough temperature to prevent your pipes from bursting. Paying your heating bill will be immensely cheaper in the long run than paying for potentially catastrophic burst pipes.

Regular inspections

If you have your pipes inspected on a regular basis, a plumber can spot any potential problems before they become severe. For example, a plumber will notice if your pipes are vulnerable to freezing if your pipes are not adequately insulated or if leaks are occurring. At Chas Roberts, we specialize in comprehensive plumbing inspections and installations. If there’s a problem with your pipes, we’ll tell you—and we’ll fix it quickly and efficiently.

How Chas Roberts can help

The plumbing experts at Chas Roberts can help you conquer frozen pipes, or prevent them from freezing in the first place with a thorough inspection. Whatever your plumbing needs are, contact us today to get started.