3 Things to Know Before Thawing Frozen Pipes
We’ve talked about how to prevent frozen pipes, but what happens when your pipes freeze anyway? Now, the absolute safest way to deal with this is to call in a professional, because thawing pipes can be tricky and we don’t want to give you tips that set you up for failure. But if you can’t, or there’s another reason you need or want to do it yourself, here are a few things you should know before you start in order to be as safe as possible.
It’s good to know where your water shut-off valves are in general, but especially if you ever attempt any plumbing projects yourself. There are usually smaller shut-off valves near sinks and toilets and a main shut-off valve outside, generally near the water meter. In the event of a burst pipe, you might need to shut off the main valve. If you don’t know where at least the main shut-off is, do not proceed.
The Right Tools
Some methods of thawing pipes are safer than others. A space heater, hair dryer, or heat tape are all safe for exposed pipes (e.g. under the sink). If your frozen pipe is inside a wall or otherwise inaccessible, you can try pointing an infrared lamp at the wall or just cutting out a section of the wall to access the pipe with one of the other options above.
Never use an open flame to attempt to thaw a frozen pipe. No propane torches, no lighters, no torches like the villagers in Frankenstein carried. No flames. It’s really easy to damage your pipes that way, or you could start a fire (which you then couldn’t put out because your pipes are frozen and/or you’ve shut off the water).
Thawing pipes involves placing an electrical heat source near a frozen pipe. If the pipe bursts, the water dammed up by the ice block will flow out. Most likely toward you and that electrical heat source. Please do not electrocute yourself trying to thaw your pipes. Take the necessary safety precautions when setting up.
Sometimes a small blockage under the sink can be thawed in a few minutes with a hair dryer. Sometimes you can spend all day cutting holes in your drywall looking for what you think is the frozen spot. Regardless of the size and severity of your frozen pipe, the main thing to remember is that if at any point you’re uncomfortable - you’re afraid to get electrocuted, or you just can’t find the blockage, or the pipe bursts - call and tag us in.