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How to Thaw Out Frozen Pipes Safely

Edited by Robbi, Lynn, Doug Collins, Ephraim and 1 other

Thaw Out Frozen Pipes Safely

You notice it first thing in the morning when you go to the bathroom, or later when you are in the kitchen - you turn on the faucet and nothing happens. If it has been an especially cold night, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that somewhere in your plumbing system, a pipe has likely frozen.

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Although this may seem like a catastrophe of monumental proportions, among home repair jobs, this is one of the easiest. However, if the problem turns out to be one for which you cannot take action, you will need to call a plumber right away. You will first need to put on your detective's cap and discover the source of the problem and then plan your attack.

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Items you may need:

  • Heat tape
  • Heat lamp
  • Hand held hair dryer

How to Find the Area and Unthaw Your Frozen Pipes

  1. 1
    Isolate the problem – By checking all the faucets in the house, you can work out where the freezing has occurred.

    If it is in only one sink then you know the problem is in the pipes under that sink. If the problem extends to all the faucets, the most likely place is where the water comes into the house. This would be either through a basement wall or in the crawlspace under the house.

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  2. 2
    Open all faucets.

    This will not only let you know when you have succeeded in thawing your pipes, but also when the water flowing will aid in clearing all ice out of the pipes.

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  3. 3
    Thaw Pipe - Once you have found the site of the freeze, you can apply heat and thaw out the pipe.

    How long the pipe has been frozen will determine how far the freezing extends. Usually, if a pipe has frozen overnight it won't be frozen its entire length. For maximum efficiency, start at the most likely place the freezing occurred. You should be able to determine this by examination of the areas exposed to cold or the wind.

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  4. 4
    Be patient - it may take an hour or more to unthaw frozen pipes safely.

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  5. 5
    When the water is running again, remove the heat from the affected pipe and let faucets run for a few minutes.

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  6. 6
    A little preventive home maintenance can prevent future frozen pipes.

    When the temperatures are expected to be uncommonly low for your area, take the following precautions.  

    1. Leave faucets dripping.
    2. Wrap with heat tape.
    3. Wrap pipes with insulation (year round).
    4. If pipes go through an unheated garage, leave the door open from garage to house.
    5. Going to be away from home for several days? Turn off the water and drain pipes to prevent freezing.
    6. Keep cabinet doors open to expose pipes under sinks.
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  7. 7
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Warnings:

  • If you use heat tape, do not wind it over itself
  • If you use a heat lamp, do not place it anywhere near flammable materials and do not leave the house while it is being used.
  • Do not place directly below the pipe; when the pipe thaws out it may leak into a lamp positioned underneath it.
  • Don't leave the house unattended until pipes thaw. You won't know if pipes have burst until they thaw.
  • Don't risk using a blowtorch or any open flame.

Questions and Answers

Do you leave faucet on when thawing overnight frozen pipe in wall?

Yes, this can help in your situation to prevent the ice from forming but if the pipes are thawing themselves out if is recommended to leave the cabinet doors open with the heat on in your home in order to allow the pipes to thaw out safely.

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How long will it take for pipes to thaw?

This will depend on the severity of how bad the pipes were frozen for with some methods of thawing for pipes that are moderately frozen then you will have a wait time of about 2 hours without applied heat.

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Should i let frozen pipe thaw out by itself?

Yes, it is recommended for you to allow the pipes to thaw themselves out alone without applying any water or extra techniques for this can cause the pipes to burst which can cause more harm to your pipes.

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How to fix a frozen water pipe if the water is frozen in the pipe leading to only in one sink? Do I need to turn off the water for the whole house?

No, it is not necessary if the pipe that you are talking about goes down to the drain other than the pipe that the water comes from in tis situation. If the pipe you are talking about is not use to direct water to the faucet then you will not need to turn off all the water in the house.

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Is it safe to leave the house unattended with a frozen pipe? #18?

No, depending on how frozen the pipes you may in fact have an issue where your pipes will burst thus spilling water all over the house non stop with no one to help cut the water off or change the pipe once it starts spilling out.

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Can a pipe freezing cause the pipe to burst?

Yes, depending on the severity of the freezing the pipes can in fact burst. This happens when the pipes freeze without being attended to properly in order for it to get thawed out. This happens at times when peoples pipes freeze without them knowing and later on the pipes are founded to be burst.

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Can you put heat tape inside a pipe to thaw it out?

Absolutely you can, this will be your last option if the other methods of thawing you`re frozen pipes won`t actually be fix. These tapes surely will come in handy, but in order to apply this tape you must first need to ensure that you are on the right spot and apply on the exact amount needed to thaw the frozen pipe.

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  • If you have any problems with any of these steps please post in the comments section below.

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Recent edits by: Ephraim, Doug Collins, Lynn

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