Frozen Pipes Demand Immediate Action
Frozen pipes make headlines every winter. A frozen pipe requires immediate action to avoid water removal problems and accompanying damages. As winter settles in, Madison WI area homes are at risk.
If you’ve had pipes freeze on the past, take time to inspect your waterlines for any sign of frost. A coating on the outside is the first sign pipes are too cold. When the problem progresses pipes bulge as they expand. If you see that, a serious water problem is only minutes away. Not every frozen pipe bursts, but there’s no time to waste.
If your water isn’t running, the pressure is low or a toilet doesn’t refill, chances are good you have a frozen pipe.
Steps To Avoid Water Removal Problems
When you detect frozen pipes don’t panic. Close the main water shut-off valve. The sooner water stops running into the house the less water removal costs. Do you know where the shut-off valve is? When the temperatures dip, find the valve and make sure you know how to work it – and that it works. Everyone in the family should know where the valve is.
There are two levels of concern with frozen pipes:
- Frozen pipes with no or restricted water flow
- A pipe that’s burst because water froze in the line
As soon as you know you have a burst pipe, shut off the water and call a licensed plumber. Water damage from burst pipes is one of the top reasons for insurance claims. A burst pipe is a costly emergency when you tally the cost of a plumber and repairs plus water removal efforts. If you catch the break soon enough you can clean it up yourself. If it’s allowed to run for long a professional crew with the proper tools is a must. Water remediation and cleanup includes heavy-duty vacuums, damaged material removal and drying. Professionals have high-energy fans and commercial dehumidifiers.
Thaw Frozen Pipes As Soon As You Find Them
Thawing a frozen pipe quickly is important. But you must thaw the frozen pipe correctly. Every year damages from broken pipes are compounded by fires cause by people trying to thaw them the wrong way.
The first step is obvious: Find the frozen pipe. Even if it’s burst, it might be hard to locate. Begin turning on faucets. If little or no water comes from the tap the pipe leading to the faucet is probably frozen. Don’t stop searching when you find a faucet that doesn’t work. When one pipe freezes others can too.
Exposed pipes like those under sinks or in the basement are the easiest to troubleshoot. And your options for thawing them are easier, too. Pipes within a wall are a different problem.
Before you begin thawing any frozen pipes, open the faucets the pipe feeds. Open both the hot and cold sides – it may transfer hot water when in use, but water in the hot line is cold enough to freeze when it sits for a long time. Opening the taps relieves pressure in the lines and allows water to escape when you thaw the pipe.
Options For Thawing Exposed Pipes
Once you locate a blockage the thawing process begins near the open faucet because you want a route for the ice and water to escape. Start near the faucet and move toward the solid blockage.
For exposed, easy to access pipes, consider these thawing tricks:
- A hair dryer – one of the easiest ways to thaw a pipe is with a common hair dryer. Point it at the frozen section, turn it to the highest setting and take your time. You’ll know it’s working when water begins flowing from the faucets again. WARNING – if there’s any hint of water in the area take precautions using any electric appliance and be safe.
- A heat lamp – position a heat lamp near the frozen pipes. This method takes longer because you aren’t directing a stream of hot air on the pipes.
- Portable space heater – like a heat lamp, a portable heated warms the whole area and will thaw pipes in time.
- Heating tape – electric heating tape wrapped around the pipe is a good option and worth investigating if you have a spot that’s at risk on a regular basis. Some come with timers so they go on/off when there is a freezing threat. Better solution is finding the source of the cold air and fixing it.
- Thawing Frozen Pipes Inside A Wall
When pipes freeze inside a wall, they aren’t easy to thaw. There are fewer options, including:
- Turning up the heat – raise the temperature setting in the room and allow the ice to melt naturally.
- An infrared lamp – when you know where the frozen pipe is, you can put an infrared lamp near the wall. The heat penetrates the wall and thaws the pipe.
- Cut out a section of wall – the most extreme remedy for a frozen pipe inside a wall is to remove part of the wall to get at the pipe. Then you use any of the methods that work for exposed pipes.
- Letting faucets drip when it’s extremely cold doesn’t keep water from freezing in your pipes. It does keep pipes from bursting. Water freezes even when it’s flowing if the temperature is cold enough. But with no excessive water pressure pipes don’t burst even when water freezes.
In the Madison area the magic number for the most risk to pipes is 20 degrees. That’s the temperature when the cold is most likely to penetrate the natural protection of your structure.
Water Removal Is One Concern
When pipes freeze there are two reasons homeowners suffer damage, the basic elements of fire and water.
It cannot be emphasized too much. Never use a flame of any kind to try to thaw a clogged pipe. Homeowners tempted to use a propane torch risk not only damaging the pipe, but a serious fire. And, the damaged pipe is more likely to burst and flood the area.
The most serious concerns are for homeowners who travel during the cold months. When you leave your house unattended and a pipe bursts, there’s no one at home to turn off the water. The resulting flood is serious and water removal is just the beginning of the cleanup task.
When you plan a winter get-away, take the following precautions before you leave:
- Resist the urge to turn to heat down too far
- Allow faucets to drip slightly
- Keep the doors between rooms open so warm air spreads everywhere
- Be sure to turn off the water to outdoor faucets and disconnect your hoses
- Too Much Water – Call A Pro
There are times when disaster strikes and you cannot keep up on your own. That’s when it’s time to call upon a professional team with expertise and proper equipment to deal with whatever caused your water removal problem. Next month, we’ll discuss steps to take in avoiding frozen pipes. When need help immediately, call Precision Cleaning & Restoration and put our team to work on your frozen pipes anywhere in the Madison WI area.