Sometimes even the most preventative measure can’t stop a sudden snap frost or fast drop in temperature. So it’s best to be on the lookout for frozen pipes symptoms before something bursts. If your frozen pipes burst that’s a whole different story. You’re going to need water meditation for that occurrence. In any case here are some tips on how to detect and combat any water that might be freezing in your pipelines.

“some winters will never melt some summers will never freeze and some things will only ... live in poems.” Sanober Khan

What NOT to Do

It's boring, but it's important.
Insulated piping is important. Source: DIY Network

They say the easiest solutions are the best, but this isn’t always the case. Unfreezing water pipes can be done, but not in the most direct manner that you may be thinking of. Many homeowners think that thawing pipelines can be done by heating up the pipes themselves. And while this is technically true, you shouldn’t use a disproportionate response to a problem like this. Meaning, don’t ignite anything with fire. Under no circumstances should you ever use the following to try and thaw out your frozen pipes:

  • Blowtorch
  • Kerosene heater
  • Propane heater
  • Charcoal oven
  • Pellet stove
  • Open flame of any kind
  • Fire in any form

Instead, try the following:

  • Keep your water running with an open faucet
  • Know where the water main shut-off is
  • Use electric heaters, like a heating pad or blow dryer
  • Use a portable space heater
  • Hire a plumber

How to Locate the Frozen Area

But what about how to find frozen pipes? Or just how to tell if your pipes are frozen? It’s certainly worth noting that there are visuals to look for when attempting to locate the problem. There are certain signs to seek out when trying to spot-check for a frozen area in your piping. Be sure to keep an eye out for:

  • A frostline on the pipe
  • Metal that is extra cold to the touch
  • A pipe that is bulging like a python
  • Certain faucets are flowing, but not others
  • Toilets are not filling completely

Thawing a Frozen Pipe

When you detect a freeze issues, it's best to act fast.
The piping to your home is vulnerable to cold damage. Source: How Stuff Works

Once the affected area is located, you should take the steps necessary to thaw out the frozen pipe. You can certainly use some of the ideas above, but it seems like most people have a great deal of luck with the hot-water trick. This method of unfreezing water pipes includes placing hot water rags or cloths on the affected areas. As mentioned before, you can use a form of electrical heating to help the process along, so long as you’re not standing in water. And again, be sure to keep all your faucets open to allow steam from the thawing to escape. How long does it take for pipes to unfreeze? Depends on the severity of the cold.

How to Locate Your Home’s Main Water Shut-off Valve

Here's what a typical main water shut-off valve looks like
This is what a typical main water shut-off valve looks like. Source: HGTV

Worst case scenario: your pipes do freeze, and your frozen pipes burst. It’s time to take drastic action. The very first thing you’ll want to do is locate and shut off the main water valve in your home. Generally this is found within the inside perimeter of your home, street side. Otherwise look to your property inspection report, section 6.1 for a detailed location. When you find it, turn the handle clockwise. Afterwards keep the faucets in your home open and immediately call in a plumber. You’ll save yourself a lot of damage and headaches.

Care for Your Pipes After Bursting

This is the extreme damage that a broken pipeline can cause to a structure
And in some cases, water remediation is the least of your concerns. Source: ABC

So once the damage is done, one of the best ways to take care of broken piping is to call a plumber. We have to mention this several times in the article because it’s the only way to successfully (and completely) reverse the damage done by a burst pipe. Because when it comes to the question of “when will frozen pipes thaw on their own?” The answer is “too late.” When the plumber is finished be sure to tape and insulate your pipes to prevent any problems from arising in the future.

Do you have any other tips on thawing out your pipelines? Or simply keeping your pipes from bursting altogether? Let us know in the comments below!

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