Preventing Frozen Pipes: Freeze Proofing 101
posted on January 14, 2015

Frozen pipe help

frozen-water-plumbing-pipesBurst freezing pipes lead to about a quarter million families suffering catastrophic water damage to their houses each year.  That’s the big picture.  The small picture works like this:  A section of one of your hot or cold water pipes is exposed to below freezing temperatures.  You don’t use the water in that pipe during the time it takes for an ice plug to develop.

As the ice plug grows, it compresses the water between the plug and the faucet (s) at the end of that line.  The pressure becomes extreme and bursts the pipe, sometimes in an area away from the ice plug.  The plug thaws.  Water spews out of the crack, irreparably damaging walls, floors and your possessions.  Another scenario goes like this:  You take immediate action to thaw and relieve pressure on frozen pipes and then take short- and long-term steps to prevent refreezing.

  • Open the faucet affected by the frozen pipe.
  • Beginning at the faucet, use a hair dryer to warm the pipe, working back toward the likely area of the freeze.
  • Leave water on until full flow is restored, then take steps to prevent refreezing.
  • Never use an open flame to thaw pipes.

WHAT THE PROS KNOW:  A thermal envelope is the sometimes-murky boundary that divides heated from unheated space.  Inside spaces that may be outside the thermal envelope include crawl spaces, attics, garages, basements, and three-season rooms.  Pipes that may need your attention are those near or outside the thermal envelope.

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