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Repairing Burst or Frozen Water Pipes

Frozen Pipes - What You Should and Shouldn't Do.

burst frozen water pipeThe article below explains how to prevent and avoid frozen water pipes, as well as how to fix or repair a frozen water pipe that has burst. When thawing or repairing burst frozen water pipes, safety is the greatest concern due to the potential of fire from misuse of thawing devices or methods. Not only will you learn detailed instructions for the thawing and repair of frozen water pipes, the article offers practical tips for further prevention of frozen water pipes, as well as what areas to protect that are most susceptible to freezing pipes.


Prevention, Thawing and Repair of Burst or Frozen Water Pipes

Frozen Pipes - What You Should and Shouldn't Do

If you are experiencing the unfortunate dilemma of frozen or bursted water pipes - or just the prospect of your pipes freezing in your walls, crawlspace, basement or cabin, there are a few things you need to know.

Thawing Frozen Water Pipes - SAFETY

Heating Frozen Water PipesWe would like to remind everyone in the position of having to thaw or fix frozen water pipes that the use of electrical equipment and open flame always carries the extreme potential for fire. OPEN FLAME, INCLUDING PROPANE TORCHES, SHOULD NEVER BE USED TO THAW FROZEN PIPES. The potential for fire is highly likely, and high flame temperatures may cause the water in the immediately heated area to boil and burst the pipe while being thawed. Dangerous. Never use BOILING WATER. Warm, NOT HOT water can be used if no other heat source is available. Extremely hot or boiling water may cause the pipe to burst.

Arc welders are sometimes used by utility personnel to thaw underground pipes, but should NEVER be used by someone who is untrained and inexperienced in this highly dangerous method of pipe thawing. In fact, if you are reading this article you should DEFINITELY NOT USE AN ARC WELDER TO THAW FROZEN WATER PIPES. Using 'uncertified' arc welders to thaw frozen pipes can be a contravention of local Electrical Safety Code bylaws in most municipalities, and has the potential to start electrical fires within the building or adjacent buildings, even after the pipe thaws.


Always Know Where and How To Shut Off Your Main Water Supply

A common sense aspect of frozen pipe prevention is to learn how to shut off the water supply to your house. If you don't know where this valve is, find out immediately, before it is too late. Once you find the correct valve, actually close and open it to make sure it will operate in case of a water emergency. This will help you minimize the damage by shutting the water off quickly. If you can't find your shutoff valve, you can use the valve inside your water meter pit. This pit is usually located somewhere in your yard, probably near the sidewalk or street, under an iron cover plate, but again may be covered in snow or ice.


Preventing and Avoiding Frozen Water Pipes

POWER OUTAGE: If the power goes out and you are no longer receiving a water supply, the potential for your pipes to freeze is even greater. The best thing to do is to shut off the main water supply valve (coming into your home), then to open all taps so that the remaining water in the pipes trickles out and leaves no pressure in the system.

NEW HOMES: If you have the luxury of participating and/or overseeing the building of your home, make sure the plumber does not run any plumbing supply lines in the outside walls of the home. Even if he indicates he will wrap them in insulation, do not accept this compromise. Even insulated pipes in outside walls can freeze.

EXISTING HOMES: Assuming that your home's heat system doesn't fail, it is the water pipes located in outside walls, or in floors over unheated spaces, such as garages, that are in danger. Bathrooms over a garage are a common source of trouble. If you have an attached garage, keep your garage door closed. Unheated garages can be twenty or more degrees warmer than the outside temperature, and even if you don't have water pipes over the garage, keeping it closed will keep the adjoining rooms of your home warmer, too. Get in the habit of checking that the door is closed before you retire for the evening! If you have an existing home and there are plumbing supply lines running on the outside walls that you have access to, then insulate these pipes with pipe insulation or pipe heaters, available at most hardware stores.

If you're vacationing for the holidays, never turn your heating system off, or set the thermostat below 55 degrees. Regardless of how well walls are insulated, unless there is a source of heat for the pipes, they can freeze if the temperature of the room drops low enough. Typically, frozen water pipes occur in unused rooms whose heat source has been shut off, and from vacant homes and commercial buildings whose thermostats have been turned down or off. Arrange to have someone check on your home frequently if you are away from your home for a prolonged period during the winter.

If you have a pipe that freezes every year, try installing a louvered grille or some source of air flow between the the room that frequent freezing occurs in and a heated room. This will allow some heated air to get to the pipe and keep it warm. When insulating, look for small holes to the outside that let cold air access to the pipe. Some expanding foam will do a nice job of sealing out the breeze.


How to Fix a Frozen Water Pipe

NO - using arc welders to thaw pipesIF YOUR POWER SUPPLY IS OUT - WAIT!
Materials and Tools Needed:
intense heat source (hair dryer, micro heater, etc.), hack saw or pipe cutter, steel wool, 2 straight connectors (sleeves fit to size over damaged pipe), length of new pipe (same size as damaged pipe), soldering flux, solder, soldering gun or torch

If you have a burst frozen water pipe:

Prepping the Scene / Isolating the Damage

  • Close the main water supply valve to your home and open the faucet at the end of the damaged pipe to allow all water pressure to escape.
  • Examine the entire length of pipe looking for cracks, breaks, or holes, focusing on areas most susceptible to freezing pipes, e.g. crawl spaces, isolated basement rooms, garages, rooms over garages and outside walls.

Thawing Out the Damaged Frozen Pipe

  • OnceHeating Frozen Water Pipes you have found the burst, crack, break, hole or frozen area, try using a hair dryer or similar heat source to heat up the surrounding pipe area to get the water flowing again through the pipe. Pouring warm water on the frozen area of the pipe can also work, but water supply typically will be cut off (from step above) and can be very messy and is undesirable in most indoor areas. NEVER USE HOT OR BOILING WATER - THIS MAY CAUSE PIPES TO BURST. Once the water begins to flow it is time to move on to the repairing phase.

    Note: The amount of water flowing out of the faucet may be limited since the main water supply valve should be shut off.

Straight connector for repairing frozen water pipesRepairing the Damage Water Pipe

  • Once the damaged area of frozen pipe has been thawed out, use a hack saw or pipe cutter (preferable) to remove the section of pipe that includes the broken or burst area.
  • Measure a length of new pipe that fits the removed piece exactly (use the old piece of pipe as a guide).
  • Clean the old pipe and the new pipe using steel wool or fine sandpaper (a kitchen SOS or Brillo scrubbing pad also works, remember to remove all traces of soap before soldering).
  • Spread soldering flux on all open ends of pipe (4) and on the insides of the two (2) straight connectors
  • Assemble the straight connectors and over the piece of pipe and connect to damaged area.
  • Heat the straight connector with your torch or soldering gun

  • Repair your plumbs yourself.When copper pipe appears to start to 'dry' or display a greeny haze, touch solder to edge where straight connector meets pipe until solder starts to melt ('sweat' the joint). Only a small amount of solder is needed and will leach into the joint between the connector and the pipe. Make certain to perform this on all edges of the connectors - this means 4 times, once on each side of each connector.
  • Once all connections have been soldered, let the pipes cool down.
  • Once cooled, try to run water through the pipe to test for any leaks.
solder location in pipe straight connection
  • Finally, apply some pipe insulation and/or electrical pipe-heating wire around the repaired area to prevent the problem from occurring again.

Here is a great video on how to solder copper pipes:

Video - The How To of Soldering Copper Pipes

If you are not comfortable cutting and replacing the damaged pipe, pending the size of the crack or break you might simply wrap a sufficient amount of duct tape or electrical tape around the affected area for a temporary fix. Do not expect this to stop the leak! It is merely an emergency means of water supply! A certiied plumber should be brought in as soon as possible to fix the leak permanently.



Related Video - Does This Help?

Consider these tips and information from the American Red Cross Website on frozen water pipes:

Preventing Frozen Pipes

Before the onset of cold weather, prevent freezing of these water supply lines and pipes by following these recommendations:

  • Drain water from swimming pool and water sprinkler supply lines following manufacturer's or installer's directions. Do not put antifreeze in these lines unless directed. Antifreeze is environmentally harmful, and is dangerous to humans, pets, wildlife, and landscaping.
  • Remove, drain, and store hoses used outdoors. Close inside valves supplying outdoor hose bibs. Open the outside hose bibs to allow water to drain. Keep the outside valve open so that any water remaining in the pipe can expand without causing the pipe to break.
  • Check around the home for other areas where water supply lines are located and are in unheated areas. Look in the basement, crawl space, attic, garage, and under kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Both hot and cold water pipes in these areas should be insulated. A hot water supply line can freeze just as a cold water supply line can freeze if the water is not running through the pipe and the water temperature in the pipe is cold.
  • Consider installing specific products made to insulate water pipes like a "pipe sleeve" or installing UL-listed "heat tape," "heat cable," or similar materials on exposed water pipes. Many products are available at your local building supplies retailer. Pipes should be carefully wrapped, with ends butted thightly and joints wrapped with tape. Follow manufacturer's recommendations for installing and using these products. Newspaper can provide some degree of insulation and protection to exposed pipes - even ¼" of newspaper can provide significant protection in areas that usually do not have frequent or prolonged temperatures below freezing.

During Cold Weather, Take Preventive Action

  • Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.
  • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals up out of the reach of children.
  • When the weather is very cold outside, let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe - even at a trickle - helps prevent pipes from freezing because the temperature of the water running through it is above freezing.
  • Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night. By temporarily suspending the use of lower nighttime temperatures, you may incur a higher heating bill, but you can prevent a much more costly repair job if pipes freeze and burst.
  • If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55ºF.
More from the American Red Cross on frozen water pipes.


Dave Markoff is a staff writer for RemodelingMySpace.com and has 20 years of do-it-yourself home improvement and remodeling experience renovating century homes and log cabins.



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Leave Your Comments / Read Others (16):


replaceing water pipes
are there any water pipes that will expand and not burst when you have freezing weather?
frozen water pipes under ground
i have froozen water pipes underground and need some help to gett them thawed out please help me
My furnace heats the house with hot water. Copper piping thruout. A pipe to one of the radiators burst on the 2nd floor bedroom. I was away at the time so it was like this for about 4 hours. Water everywhere! I called the furnace place and they came and shut off the water at the furnace saying "there is enough water in the lines to keep the heat on until someone could come and fix it". My question is this does not make sense to me. If the furnace works off of hot water - how can it work if there is no water. Water on the 2nd floor carpet and running down the walls to the 1st floor ceiling, window and carpet, and then running down into the basement where there is about 2 inches or so of water. The french drain in the basement is located far away from this water. When the water was running down the windows - it was running outside along the side of the house which froze like a sheet of ice! Eventually the water in the lines would run out - right? Or can a furnace run for some time without water? And even though there is water in the lines - the pipe would still leak?? The house is a mess! Any advice or comments are very welcomes. Thank you. LISA
the clothes washer is in an
the clothes washer is in an outdoor room. I cant wash clothes. the water runs on a well pump. can anyone help?
out door washing machine
if the dryer is near it, point the dryer vent upwards towards drain and inlets. run dryer. before that i poured warm water over inlet pipes until water could run. the drain might take longer. also where the water enters the washer tub gets frozen. should be set
I removed some shrubs this summer and my pipes froze this week
Could the fact that I removed some shrubs near the foundation of my house be the cause of my frozen pipes? And, if so, is there anything I can do between now and Spring to keep them from freezing again? My basement is finished. The pipe runs along the exterior wall. My plumber and I were both surprised by that. He had to cut three holes the drywall before he found the freeze in the pipe. My neighbor suggested putting a tarp or plastic or a carpet or something near the foundation to take the place of the shrubs. Is this a good idea? Or will that make matters worse? Thanks for any advice.
water in crawlspace
Hi, My husband aerated our lawn and ran the sprinklers on the east and west side of the house.The next pm smelled wet dirt so i went in crawlspace & the entire floor (old carpet covering dirt) was wet very dam,boxes were wet from the bottom up. Could both faucets freeze and leak/spray into crawlspace? What I felt around the pipes and cant detect any source? I am puzzled and don't know what to check for.
frozzen pipes
I have all platic pipes in a craw space that frezz up almost every year. It seems that cold air gets through my foundation blocks, I use straw bales but they still frezz. Any advice you could give me would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
Repairing frozen water pipes can be very difficult and you may do more damage then good
winterize home that has no furnace to prevent burst/frozen pipe
This winter 2007 my oil furnace puffed back. I have no heat source and no money or hope to repair this before spring 2008. I need to survive this upcoming winter. Is there any way to winterize my pipes so that I will not have frozen or burst pipes this winter. I will not be able for any reason to financially address those type of repairs if they come to pass. I am terrified at the prospect of bursting pipes or frozen pipes that I do not know how to thaw. Does any one have any tried and true advice or referrals? Thank you
frozen water in main water line
I have been trying to get water into my trailer house.So far I have been unsuccesful in doing so.I think that my line from the groung is frozen,but I cant seem to get it unthoud. can yougive me some ideas as to how to so it. Thanks.ped
We have cold water, but not hot? Please help!
We have cold water coming into house but no hot water. We have checked the hot water heater and can find no problem. Can hot water pipes freeze and not cold water pipes? Its been below zero here in Mich for 3 days with wind chill -15 or more. Hot water stopped 3 days ago - HELP!
hot freezes quicker than
hot freezes quicker than cold, I have found over the 30 yrs.plumbing. Its in the molecules, physics of the system. I would get a hair dryer/industrial heatgun out and start working over all the hot lines

Hi Julie;

With freezing temperatures and water pipes - ANYTHING can happen. :)

"Can hot water pipes freeze?" YES. They are only hot when hot water is running through them - otherwise if they have been sitting and then the freezing air gets at them, they can freeze. Perhaps the hot water pipe is closer to the source of freezing air than the cold water pipe?

With that said, some troubleshooting needs to be done...

- Have you checked to see that the hot water heater is getting water? Maybe the pipe that feeds the hot water heater is frozen?

- Does the hot water pipe feed through any exterior walls? Maybe it is frozen in a wall?

- Have you physically felt any and ALL exposed areas of the hot water pipe to see if they appear to be freezing cold?

- Are there any areas of the house that are not being heated, that perhaps the hot water pipe runs through? (sub basement, garage, laundry room, etc...)

- Still stumped? Try heating areas of the house where cold air can get at the pipes - this may take hours, but may solve any 'in wall' problems...

If you find the frozen area of pipe - DO NOT POUR HOT WATER ON FROZEN PIPES!! - This may burst the frozen part of the pipe. Thaw slowly, with some sort of hot air device, but not a flame based device.

If you're still having trouble after all that, please get back to me... Best of Luck, and STAY WARM!! RemodelingMySpace.com

Thank you
Thank you, we have put a space heater in crawl space, it is only space that would make sense.
I'll keep in touch if we don't get thawed.
Thank you so very much again.
Frozen pipes in wall
Hello. I had a frozen pipe in my wall that went from my basement, through a laundry room, and upstairs to a washroom. I think the pipe got frozen when a back door was left open a crack and cold air got into a wall vent. I didn't want to open the wall to make sure the pipe was not damaged, so first we shut the water off then we just heated the inside of the wall slowly by pointing a micro-furnace heater at the wall vent and let the pipe thaw out that way. We didn't want to do it too quickly because the pipe may have burst. After about 6 hours we turned the water back on and everything seemed OK. Thanks for the advice! Steven P.

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