How to Find and Thaw Frozen Pipes in Your Home

Winter’s lower digit temperatures can freeze uninsulated pipes. If frozen pipes rupture, they spew hundreds of gallons of water into the home. Homeowners will subsequently face expensive water damage repairs. Avoid a water damage disaster by locating and thawing frozen pipes in the home.

Water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit. In northern Illinois, winter temperatures frequently drop well below the freezing point. On an average January, nighttime temperatures can plummet to 18 degrees Fahrenheit. The highs, too, at 31 degrees Fahrenheit, reach subfreezing levels.

Pipe burstHowever, pipes do not freeze at the same temperature that water does. Indoor pipes are protected from outside temperatures by insulation. Outdoor temperatures that reach 20 degrees Fahrenheit or lower will freeze indoor pipes. When pipes are insulated, it takes even lower temps to freeze.

A typical residential home is built with hundreds of feet of plumbing. The pipes crisscross, with some features, like the sink and shower, having their own piping. Pipes may also originate from outside the property and supply water to the interior parts of the home.

Inclement weather can cause any type of pipe to freeze, and this is a fact whether the pipes are copper or PEX. Copper pipes are more likely to freeze than pipes manufactured out of other materials. Copper conducts energy, so the heat that travels through the pipes will be lost.

Homeowners who encounter plumbing issues during subfreezing weather might suspect a frozen pipe. Signs include poor water flow when a faucet or shower is turned on, difference in water temperature, frost along the pipes, strange noises, and foul smells. A frozen pipe may bulge, indicating ice inside.


Step 1: Inspect the Coldest Areas

Finding the frozen pipe amidst the large maze of plumbing can be done. First, narrow down the possibilities. Check areas of the home that contain less heat, such as the attic, basement and crawl space. Rooms in the home that remain unused and rooms near exterior walls are also vulnerable.

Pipes in the attic and basement are not exposed to as much heat as other parts of the home, which makes them more susceptible to freezing and bursting. Similarly, pipes located near exterior walls are closer to direct cold and may be surrounded with less insulation.

Inspect all accessible pipes, such as those under the sinks. While checking the pipes that are easiest to reach, look for signs of a frozen pipe: ice, bulges, or frost. When visible signs are not present, feel around the pipe for areas with the lowest temperatures.


Step 2: Run the Faucets

dripping faucetNext, turn on all the faucets. If all the pipes are nonfunctional, the frozen section is likely located near the main water source. If the pipes in one room do not work, the frozen pipe may be near the split in the main line that delivers water to that room.


Step 3: Check the Full Lengths of Pipes

A frozen pipe may not always reveal visible cues, like ice along the exterior. In these cases, find the suspected frozen section by checking it with bare hands. Be aware that a pipe may have multiple frozen sections; so, as a precautionary measure, check the full length of the pipe.


Step 4: Thaw Frozen Pipes Gently

insulating water pipes to prevent freezing pipes and burst pipesOnce the frozen area of the pipe is located, do not rush to thaw it. Gently unfreezing the pipes is recommended so as not to damage the plumbing. Frozen pipes should be gradually warmed rather than rapidly superheated (which can cause them to burst or become permanently compromised).

If water is able to flow out of the faucets, turn on the faucets to start the thawing process. Even a minor trickle of water can begin the thawing of ice inside the pipes. When water does not flow out, it is still helpful to keep the faucets open.

The frozen section of the pipe can be thawed by applying warmth. One tactic is to wrap a towel immersed in hot water around the frozen pipe. Alternately, warm the pipe by surrounding it with an electric heating pad. A heat source, like a hair dryer, has a similar effect.

Using drastic measures to thaw a frozen pipe is not advised. While a blow torch may rapidly thaw the pipe, the pipe could become damaged and cost the homeowner thousands of dollars in repairs. Furthermore, personal safety could be jeopardized when using a blow torch.

Monitor the frozen pipes and the methods used to thaw them. Avoid leaving the pipes unattended. Watch for the flow of water. When normal water flow returns, remove the heat source from around the pipe. If attempts to thaw the pipes fail after a few hours, consult a professional plumber.


Water Damage Restoration

Water Damage CleanupA frozen pipe that ruptures will lead to a messy case of water damage. When you are faced with a water damage scenario, call in the water damage cleanup experts at ServiceMaster DAK. We respond to disasters right away to minimize the spread of water damage.

Property owners can expect comprehensive water damage restoration services from ServiceMaster DAK. IICRC certified technicians perform an initial inspection of the extent of damage, develop a cleanup plan, and implement the plan. We also photograph the damage for insurance purposes.

The water damage cleanup phase begins with water extraction using powerful equipment. Next, we dry the property with the strategic placement of air movers and dehumidifiers. All equipment is monitored by our specialists to ensure the drying process proceeds efficiently.

Both during and upon the completion of the drying process, ServiceMaster DAK technicians take baseline readings to ensure the property meets the industry dry standard. We also work with the homeowner’s insurance company to accelerate the water damage remediation claims process.

Residential and business property owners in Lake Forest, Highland Park and Gurnee, Illinois, and the surrounding communities, have confidence in the quality restoration provided by ServiceMaster DAK. We respond to water damage emergencies immediately and are available 24/7. Call to schedule an appointment.



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