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Tips for Identifying and Thawing Frozen Pipes

While your best option is to prevent frozen pipes, sometimes your efforts to keep freezing temperatures at bay aren’t enough. Watch for these signs of frozen pipes, and if you find one, follow our tips to thaw it safely.

How to Identify Frozen Pipes

  • Cold temperatures: Obviously, it must first be cold outside to create a risk for frozen pipes. The danger zone is usually 20 degrees F or lower.
  • No water from the faucet: If only a slight trickle—or no water at all—comes out of a kitchen or bathroom faucet when you turn it on, this could mean the water supply line has frozen.
  • Visible frost on the pipe: Exposed pipes—such as those running along the wall in the garage, under a sink, or in the attic—may accumulate frost on the outside if the water has frozen on the inside.
  • Strange smells from the drain: You may notice odd sewer smells if a drain line is frozen. The ice prevents waste and odors from draining, so gases escape back up into your home.

How to Thaw Frozen Pipes

The moment you realize you have a frozen pipe, act quickly to prevent it from bursting, which can cause significant water damage. Here’s how to thaw the ice:

  • Locate the frozen pipe: Test all the faucets and showerheads in your home to identify how many frozen pipes you have. Then, check exposed plumbing for visible frost or bulges that may signify an icy blockage.
  • Open the faucet: Relieve the pressure while you work on the frozen pipe by opening the faucet that it leads to. Leave both the hot and cold handles open for the best results.
  • Thaw in the right place: Begin thawing near the faucet side and work your way down the pipe. This helps melting ice and vapor escape through the open faucet to help prevent pressure buildup.
  • Thaw exposed pipes: This is the most straightforward situation because the pipes are easily accessible. Use a heating tool such as a hairdryer, heat lamp, portable space heater, hot towel, or electrical heating tape to thaw the pipe slowly. Never use a blowtorch, propane heater, or other open flames to thaw frozen pipes.
  • Thaw enclosed pipes: If you don’t have easy access to a frozen pipe, start by turning up the heat in your house. If that’s not enough to get the water flowing, hold an infrared lamp against the wall where you think the frozen pipe is located. If worse comes to worst, you can hire a technician to cut a hole in the wall and access the plumbing on the other side.

Hopefully, you can safely thaw your pipes and restore water flow with these tips. However, if a pipe bursts, shut off the main water line immediately to limit the damage. Then, call DKI Services and we can send a local DKI contractor to service your leak and perform any necessary water damage restoration.