Not all frozen pipes will burst, but it’s a definite possibility—water expands as it freezes, adding significant pressure. That extra pressure can create a small leak or crack in the pipe that can burst open to flood your home, which is why it’s important to identify and remedy frozen pipes as early as possible.
First thing first: After you’ve identified a section of frozen plumbing, cut off all water supply to that pipe. A frozen pipe may be preventing water from coming out of any leaks or cracks, but once it thaws there will be nothing to stop the water from flowing. You may want to position a bucket or some thick towels beneath the section of pipe to catch any water flow as the pipe thaws.
Next, turn on the faucet so that any remaining trapped water can emerge, as well as any steam created by your thawing efforts. Running water can also help expedite the thawing process.
You have several options for how to thaw your frozen pipe.
Option 1: Hot water.
Wrap the frozen section of piping in a heavy towel to concentrate the heat. Place a bucket underneath to catch runoff, and then pour boiling water over the towel. Repeat every 5-10 minutes until the pipe thaws. Do not leave cold wet towels wrapped around the pipe—that will worsen the problem.
Option 2: Hair dryer.
Turn a hair dryer to its highest setting and run the flow of hot air back and forth along the section of frozen pipe. Keep the dryer in constant motion and do not rest it directly against the pipe, as uneven heating can cause the pipe to rupture.
Option 3: Heat tape.
Electrical heat tape is available at any hardware store, and contains elements that will heat up when turned on. Wrap the tape around the section of pipe, and then plug into a power source. Take care not to overlap layers of tape. Apply it in a spiral pattern to create a single layer.
Of course, the best protection against damage from burst frozen pipes is prevention. If you’re not home to identify and repair a frozen pipe—for example, if you’re away on a winter vacation—you may come home to find some serious damage unless you take precautionary measures.
Even when we take precautions, accidents do happen. That’s what Bonfe’s 24/7 emergency services are for. If you discover a catastrophe outside our normal hours, call (651)-621-8821 or (612)-206-3097 for immediate service.