How Do I Know if I Have Frozen Pipes and How Can I Stop It?

Frozen pipes are a headache no one wants to deal with. Here's how to prevent and spot frozen pipes, as well as what to do if your pipes freeze.

frozen pipes_212307349Paul Tessier/Shutterstock

How To Tell if Pipes are Frozen

Frozen pipes are a concern for anyone who lives in a climate where temperatures can drop below freezing during the winter months. At the very least, frozen pipes create inconveniences by blocking the flow of running water in a home. At their worst, frozen pipes have the potential to cause a plumbing catastrophe and major property damage. It’s essential that homeowners and property owners know how to spot any signs that their pipes have frozen, so that they can take the necessary steps to prevent any possible issues.

Here are a few signs of frozen pipes:

  • There is very little water (or no water at all) coming out of faucets.
  • There is visible frost on any exposed water pipes.
  • Sections of drywall, carpet, or ceilings are damp for no other discernible reason.
  • Strange smells are coming out of faucets and drains. If a pipe is completely (or sometimes even partially) blocked, unpleasant odors have nowhere to escape but back up the drain.

Be sure you know how to avoid frozen sump pump pipes, too.

How To Keep Pipes From Freezing

Frozen pipes typically occur in areas where pipes are not well insulated, like in an unheated garage or crawl space. Here are a few steps you can take to prevent pipes from freezing:

  • Keep your thermostat set at a consistent temperature, and leave the heat above 55 degrees when you’re away from home for extended periods of time.
  • Wrap any exposed water pipes with pipe insulation.
  • Keep your garage door closed as much as possible, and let warm air circulate throughout your home.
  • If you are going to be away from home for a while, let a very small amount of water drip from a few of your faucets to keep water moving throughout your plumbing system.

What To Do When Pipes Freeze

Frozen pipes are difficult to locate because in most cases water pipes are hard to access, tucked away in the walls, floors or ceilings of a home. It is possible to thaw a section of frozen pipe with a hair dryer or a space heater if it is exposed or in an accessible location. Make sure that you have the faucet open when attempting to thaw a pipe, as the flow of water running through the pipe will help melt any ice inside. Do not attempt to thaw a frozen pipe with any sort of open flame device like a blow torch.

If you think that you have a frozen pipe on your hands and cannot locate it or solve the problem yourself, call a plumber. A professional plumber will be able to locate the freeze and will come equipped with professional-grade equipment specifically made for thawing pipes.

What To Do if a Frozen Pipe Bursts

If the worst case scenario occurs and a frozen pipe bursts, immediately go and shut off the main water supply to your home. It’s also a good idea to turn off the electricity in the area where the pipe has burst. Call a plumber as soon as possible and start to remove water with mops and buckets to prevent the growth of mold and mildew.

Plus: Did you know these are the 12 things your plumber wants you to know?

Harrison Kral
After spending his college summers pouring concrete and building decks, Harrison Kral decided to find a way to put his insider knowledge of construction to use…. just in an air-conditioned setting. He’s an established writer and editor in the DIY space who has written extensively on the home building industry, the housing market, and general DIY trends.