How to Prevent Frozen Pipes and What to Do to Unfreeze Them

How to Prevent Frozen Pipes and What to Do to Unfreeze Them

Water Restoration

Water bursting through frozen pipes is a common sight in homes during periods of very cold weather. You’d be surprised how many calls water damage restoration companies, such as PuroClean, get every winter to restore properties that are affected by frozen pipes. Check out how pipes freeze, how to prevent pipes from freezing, and how to unfreeze pipes — and avoid water damage before it’s too late:

Why do pipes freeze?

Pipes are especially vulnerable to damage caused by expanding water. Water lines that freeze are usually exposed to severe cold, such as outdoor hose bibs, swimming pool supply lines, or water sprinkler lines. In addition, pipes in unheated interior areas such as basements, crawl spaces, attics, garages, and kitchen cabinets, and those that run against exterior walls with little or no insulation are also susceptible to freezing.

Several variables contribute to frozen pipes:

Furthermore, buildings that have a poor design and do not withstand severe weather sufficiently can contribute to their own damage. The type and age of the plumbing system is also a factor. Rust or corrosion weakens pipes, making leaks more likely to occur. When freeze-expansion occurs, corroded pipes will often split open. When thawing begins or when the water is turned back on, damage can occur.

During the renovation of older homes, blown-in or foam insulation is sometimes added to wall cavities between interior and exterior wall surfaces and between studs. This process may actually insulate heat away from pipes adjacent to the exterior wall surfaces, making them more susceptible to freezing.

Surprisingly, pipe freezing can be a particular problem in the warmer climates of southern states. In these areas, buildings may not be adequately constructed for cold weather conditions. Pipes often run through non-insulated or under-insulated attics, crawl spaces, or walls. If the temperature drops below freezing for even a day, these pipes may freeze and break.

Damage generally occurs when the water supply is turned back on. Since most modern plumbing lines are inside walls, homeowners usually observe a leak only after water has damaged floors, carpet, walls, or ceilings. Occasionally, an occupant hears the sound of spraying water, but by then it may be too late. The leak has already caused some degree of damage.

Pipes can also freeze during a power outage. Winter wind, snow, and ice storms frequently damage electric power lines and equipment, resulting in interruptions of electric power. Most heating systems depend on electricity, and when the power goes off, so does the heat. In severe cold weather, this can result in extensive freeze damage before power is restored.

How water pipes freeze

Water is a unique substance. As with most materials, when water cools, its density increases, and it settles to the bottom of a container. However, at 32º F, it expands and, therefore, its density decreases! This is why ice floats.

This expansion increases the volume of water by about 11% and creates tremendous pressure on its container (between 50,000 and 114,000 psi). Such containers include metal and plastic pipes. No matter the strength of a material, expanding water will cause it to break.

Frozen water pipes can result in significant to extreme water damage, and the cost to repair is often huge! The following tips can help you prevent pipes from freezing and thaw those that are already frozen.

How to prevent pipes from freezing

When leaving home for more than a few days

If you plan to be away from home for an extended period during cold weather:

How to unfreeze pipes

What to do if a pipe bursts

If a pipe bursts, shut off the water at the main valve. Call a plumber (keep an emergency number nearby for quick access). Then call PuroClean to evaluate and remediate any water damage that occurred. Our technicians stand ready to provide water damage restoration services to your property 24/7.

Last edited on 20th of December 2019

Contact Your Local Office

24/7 Emergency Response (636) 445-5115