Frozen Pipes – How to Prevent and How to Fix

What to Do if You Forgot to Winterize Your Pipes

Some of us have homes with properly-weatherized plumbing. Some less fortunate folks have chronic issues with freezing pipes. Freezing pipes and unusable taps are one problem, but the worse (and more expensive) problem is when they burst. There are predictions that this winter is going to be a doozy, so even if you don’t normally have issues, this article is still for you. You should’ve done the weatherizing this past fall, but if you forgot, and have found yourself in the freezing throws of a nasty winter, there are a few things you can do to remedy the situation.

How do you know they are frozen? Here are a few signs:

  1. The water won't come out of the tap.
  2. The water is the wrong temperature (hot water is cold).
  3. There is a bad smell in pipes (this can be because of a frozen blockage).
  4. There is ice and/or frost on the pipe.

Bathroom Sink PipesIf you think your pipes are frozen, you must act quickly. Here are a few DIY remedies:

  1. Open taps so they drip slightly—just the tiniest bit, not weeping, but a few drops per minute. The pressure at faucets can cause pipes to burst and opening tap relieves that pressure.
  2. Open cabinet doors where there is plumbing to let heat enter the cabinets (and warm the pipes).
  3. Keep interior doors open to allow heat to circulate.
  4. Keep the heat at a high enough setting to warm your entire home. If you are not in the building, some plumbers recommend keeping it above 50 degrees. If you know you have issues, you may want to set it to 60 (and implement other precautionary measures to prevent freezing).
  5. Warm pipes with a blow-dryer if they have frozen. Don’t use anything too hot because it could potentially damage pipes. You can also wrap hot wet rags around them.
  6. If pipes have frozen, turn off the main shut-off valve immediately to minimize damage to your pipes.

What should you do if your pipes freeze and burst?:

  1. Immediately turn off the main water valve (make sure you familiarize yourself with its location).
  2. Vent area or use a dehumidifer to remove moisture.
  3. Be careful of flooding, as you can slip or get electrocuted if there's an affected cord.
  4. Call a plumber immediately.

Pipes that are most prone to freezing are ones that are located in unheated areas like crawl spaces, garages, and basements—or pipes from outdoor plumbing systems (hot tubs, sprinkler systems and pools). Also, pipes running through outside walls are more likely to freeze, especially if that wall is not insulated. Frozen pipes can expand, crack, and/or burst due to pressure in the line, causing potential flooding and serious damage to your plumbing system. The more preventative measures you take (and the earlier in the season), the safer your plumbing will be. Check out our other winterizing  and frost-proof faucet posts for plumbing winterizing and other fall/winter prep homeowner must-do’s. And if you need a plumber, get a free, no-obligation quote from

For more information about weatherizing your home, check out our other winterizing article.

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