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Frozen pipes are a big problem during extended cold snaps in winter.

I want you protected, so do me a favor and as soon as you are done reading this blog post, remove any hoses you have attached to your outdoor faucets and then go in the house and TURN OFF the water to the outside faucets.

By doing these two simple tasks you have averted major risk already to water damage in your walls and home by a frozen burst pipe.

Frozen water exerts thousands of pounds of pressure per square inch on a pipe and can burst it, causing flooding and major damage to your home. But there are right ways and wrong ways to thaw out a frozen pipe, and knowing how to perform this critical repair and prevent it from from occurring can save your home.

So read Thawing a Frozen Water Pipe and just chill out, don't freeze up! (Ouch!)

Comments

December 2, 2007 at 9:13 pm
(1) David B says:

You can never be to careful when it comes to getting ready for the winter… Great post, this is very valuable information for all home owners and a great way of improving your home and living environment.

I believe that being prepared and having balance and harmony in the home are the two most important things besides a loving family.

Thanks,

Dave

December 4, 2007 at 8:03 am
(2) John from Jacksonville says:

This may be regional terminology that has me confused, but, how do you “go in to your house and TURN OFF the water to the outside faucets”? The only way I know how to turn off an outside faucet is at the faucet, which is outside. Also, how does this protect the internal lines of the house that may be subjected to freezing temperatures? I’ve always been led to believe I need to leave the kitchen sink faucet dripping all night. Also, what about the irrigation system that is on a separate water line and has an above ground backflow valve? Swimming pool system? Do I leave the pump running all night? Freezing pipes aren’t a frequent problem down here, but the lines aren’t protected very well either. I’d appreciate more information on the prevention part of frozen pipes. Thanks.

December 4, 2007 at 9:07 am
(3) homerepair says:

Hi John,
Good questions. The outside faucet (or sill cock) only turns water on and off outside, there is (or is supposed to be) a water shut off valve inside the house for the outside faucet. You may have to do some investigating in your home following water supply lines to try and find the shut off valve. They are usually located near the outside faucet.

The inside pipes don’t need protection from freezing as your home’s temperature is always well above freezing, it’s the water lines that go through the outside wall, say to outside faucets (sill cocks) or water pipes that are in the outside wall or directly next to an outside wall (especially walls with little to no insulation) that are at risk from freezing.

Leaving your kitchen faucet dripping slightly at night is a good solution to water pipes that are in the wall or otherwise prone to freeze risk. The constant movement of water makes freezing much more difficult.

As for irrigation systems, they are extremely prone to freeze damage and should always be shut off and blown out with compressed air to purge the lines of any remaining water.

At the end of the day just think of this. Water expands when it freezes. If it has no room to expand in a pipe (since water won’t compress), the pipe becomes the weak link and breaks or cracks. Water, still under pressure in your system then leaks, or rather pours out like an open faucet, from the damaged pipe. To stop freeze damage, you need to prevent the pipe from freezing or allow it to freeze and remove the water.

Hope this helps!

December 28, 2007 at 5:47 am
(4) raghunath says:

the best way to over come is using supertherm coat over pipes i dont know how costly it is but definately it wont allow heat transfer which means even cold is not transfered this is manufactured by supertherm from usa

November 18, 2008 at 12:47 pm
(5) Eric says:

Can u suggest a “best practices” approach to turning the water off @ a seasonal property w/o damaging your plumbing when turning it back on. Any tricks to relieving water/air pressure in the pipes, etc…

November 18, 2008 at 1:13 pm
(6) homerepair says:
December 14, 2008 at 5:55 pm
(7) kathy says:

I live in a mobile home in northern Alberta Canada. I’ve tried pouring hot water down the pipes, that worked yesterday, not today. I’m now trying the hair dryer, how long do I try.

January 19, 2009 at 10:14 am
(8) Curtis Wimberly says:

Since we started using Redytemp to stop pipes from freezing we have yet to wake up with frozen pipes.

January 22, 2009 at 1:17 pm
(9) Steve says:

Kathy: I can really empathize with your frozen drain pipes. I live in northern Ohio and I have had a frozen drain for a week now, after the temp dropped to only about 5-below here. I also live in a mobible home and the drain pipe runs the full length which makes it susceptible to zub-zero temps. It appears the freeze block sets up somewhere at the mid-point or maybe the end because pouring boiling water into the sink doesn’t touch it. I doubt you want to crawl under the home in these conditions with a hair dryer as the pipe is likely hidden by insulation anyway. My problem was just solved as I write, as the temp finally climbed up to 30 F. and the drain opened on its own. Up where you are unfortunately, you may have no choice but to call a plumber.

September 10, 2009 at 3:10 pm
(10) sandrar says:

Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. :) Cheers! Sandra. R.

January 18, 2010 at 9:09 am
(11) Matthieu says:

In addition to turning OFF the valve inside that feeds the outside spigot, I recommend turning ON the spigot itself. I’ve heard this recommendation from multiple plumbers. Here’s why: you normally have the inside valve on and the spigot off, which means that there is water in the pipe all the way to the spigot outside. If you just turn the inside supply valve off, there will still be water between the spigot and the inside supply valve, which can freeze and burst that section of pipe. Opening the spigot AFTER turning the inside supply valve lets that water drain out. A little water might remain in there, but that’s no problem: if it freezes, it has room to expand, so you won’t burst your pipes. I recently had personal experience to prove that this is necessary: in the middle of the winter, I closed the internal supply valve but left the spigot closed as well. When I got to the house after a cold weekend away, I found that turning both valves to the open position did nothing: there was a bit of water frozen betwen the spigot and the supply valve. To fix it, I left both on, then took a pot of very hot water and poured it on the spigot outside. This melted the ice enough to get the water running. As soon as it was running, the rest of the ice loosened/melted. Hopefully no damage was done in the wall, but I will always leave that outside spigot ON when I winterize!

January 18, 2010 at 12:23 pm
(12) homerepair says:

Matthieu, great add, thanks! I open the valve as well and should have mentioned that point.

Bob Formisano

October 2, 2010 at 10:30 pm
(13) Bob says:

Yes do get a disconnect valve for your outside spigot.
I learned a very painful lesson.
I thought that the frost free was good enough. Well it is but… We had no shut offs in the home. 1970 I guess they did not put them in back then.

SOmeone attempted to use the outside faucet in the winter and they left it open. I’m thinking they forgot which way is off and actually turned it all the way on.
Well the sun must have thawed it out, it started running for days. It ended up in the finished basement. Nasty stuff grew. Pets died, I lost some lung tissue, blood clots, etc. Just about died. All from a stupid outside faucet.
We have a shut off valve now, I’m super paranoid about anyone messing with the outside faucets in the winter.

Not sure why the Frost free did not work, maybe it was so cold the steel transferred it a foot back. But it must have been frozen to the point where it was turned on and nothing came out.

Always have a shut off, for many reasons. What if on a vacation and it breaks, you have a mess. Its not so much the water, its the sick stuff that grows in it.

If you ever finish your basement i’d get a good hepa with carbon just in case. Also good airflow, stuff I think of now in hindsight. I’d get one of those ducts that pulls air from floor and lets it exit via window or vent. It sounds like a waste of heat but it forces upstairs air through. Basements can look good but they usually are high humidity vs upstairs. Trust me you don’t want to deal with some of the molds that can grow.

February 2, 2011 at 3:26 pm
(14) joyce says:

love this! you get alot of answers from reading! I am
just wanting to know if you let the water running on
the outside faucets, or the inside to keep from freezing? I have always let my faucets drip in the
kitchen and bathroom. My friend told me she lets the
outside faucets running. Have you ever heard this before?
Thanks!

[Homerepair Response]
Joyce, NEVER let your outside faucet run. Make sure to turn the water supply off to the outside faucets. If you want to let interior faucets drip slightly that are located on cold walls or outside walls, that’s OK. Hope this helps! Stay warm!

January 24, 2013 at 1:53 pm
(15) Tony says:

What do you do if you can’t turn the spigot on outside. Mine is frozen shut and I can turn it. Any suggestions would be most appreciated.

January 24, 2013 at 5:24 pm
(16) homerepair says:

Hi Tony,
Try a hair dryer http://homerepair.about.com/od/plumbingrepair/ss/thaw_frzn_pipe_4.htm
or an electric heat gun.
Regards,
Bob

November 12, 2013 at 11:33 pm
(17) Annette says:

I live in Mississippi and my husband just died. I’m gone most of the day, I don’t have much money, and I am learning how to repair my own home. Because I have so little money, I have started sleeping without a heater turned on while bundled up under a giant pile of covers. I’m gone to my Mom’s house most of the day, and only use the water at home for a couple of hours. I also started turning off the water to the whole house at the street outside after I get finished with my bath because too many faucets in the house were leaking. My husband spent his last days too weak to fix things the right way. Then he died, and now the weather is cold. It has not reached below 25 degrees and might not because this is Mississippi, and it is normal to go a whole Winter without many extreme freezes. Ignorance can be painful when you don’t have an expert to consult.

My problem is that I don’t know what to do right now. It is cold outside, and expected to get down to 29 degrees. Tomorrow will be about the same. Then the rest of the week will be warmer. I’ve noticed that the pipes under the house are wrapped with something. but I don’t know how well wrapped they are.

Last night was cold also when I turned the water on outside, I came inside and heard a gush of water at one of the bathroom’s commode. I did not stick around to see what was happening at the rest of the faucets. I just went back outside to turn everything off and went without a bath, but I cannot do that all Winter. When I got up this morning. I looked at that commode and found that there was plenty of water for flushing in the back of the commode. The tank was almost completely overflowing but stable because the water was off. What should I do? What would you do? What product do you recommend, and do you recommend leaving the water on or off all day?

November 13, 2013 at 9:32 am
(18) homerepair says:

Hi Annette,
I am so sorry to hear about your situation. You cannot continue to live like you are and need to have the basic plumbing working properly in your home. I would suggest you contact your local church and ask if they can help you. I am sure some folks in the congregation would be willing to help you with the necessary repairs. Good luck and God bless.
Bob

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