If a water pipe in your wall freezes, it could cause extensive damage to your home. Frozen pipes often lead to decreased pressure and eventual leaks.
For your safety in wintertime, use insulation and heat tape on all pipes. Additionally, shut off the main water source and run all faucets and toilets before trying to thaw out a frozen pipe.
Heat the Area
Winter temperatures can be especially dangerous for water pipes inside homes. Exposed pipes along exterior walls and in unheated spaces of the house are often at risk of freezing damage.
To protect pipes from freezing, increase your house’s heat a few degrees higher than usual when temperatures drop. Doing this helps your indoor air remain warmer throughout the day, decreasing the likelihood of frozen pipes.
Maintaining cabinet doors to fixtures along the outer walls of your home is a wise idea, as this allows warm air to circulate and help prevent freezing. Building up a wind break on an exterior wall using boards or other materials can also serve to protect pipes exposed to weather elements.
Once you’ve located where the pipe is frozen, use a hair dryer, heat lamp, portable space heater, electric heating pad or hot towels to thaw it out. Be sure to apply heat directly onto the frozen pipe itself and not its surrounding walls as melted ice could potentially cause serious harm if it comes into contact with live wires or electrical appliances.
If the frozen pipe is concealed behind a finished wall, you may have to tear out part of the drywall in order to access it. While this should be your last resort option, if you can access and thaw out the pipe quickly enough, this could potentially save your home from more costly repairs in the future.
One alternative is to place an infrared lamp on the side of the wall that contains the frozen pipe. This will heat up the plumbing in that section, helping it thaw out.
Alternately, you could try placing heating tape on the pipe. This will distribute heat evenly throughout and help speed up thawing time.
Before your frozen pipe bursts, it’s essential to thaw it out. Failing to do so could lead to extensive water damage and mold growth. If the pipe has already frozen, shut off your main water source and contact a plumbing professional for an assessment of the situation.
Use a Hair Dryer
A hair dryer is the best way to quickly and efficiently heat frozen pipes, but you must remain close by so as not to overheat the pipe. Move the hair dryer in small sections as you work your way toward the frozen portion of the pipe.
You can also wrap a heating pad around the pipe to generate enough heat to thaw out frozen sections. This method works great in various places such as basements, crawlspaces and even inside walls.
Be mindful that overheating the pipe can lead to burst, so proceed slowly and carefully. Begin by opening the faucet closest to where the frozen section is, then work your way toward it. Doing this allows any steam created to escape rather than building up pressure inside of it.
Once you’re finished, close the main water shut-off valve (usually located near your house’s water meter). Doing this will prevent a flood of water that could cause further harm.
Once the pipe has thawed, you can turn back on the water supply, but be sure to wait for any frozen sections of it to melt completely – usually taking 30-45 minutes.
While you wait, try warming a towel to help expedite the process. Soak the towel in hot water and wrap it around the affected pipe. Alternatively, place the towel on a cookie sheet to reflect heat back.
You may use a heat gun or another tool to thaw out frozen pipes, but be careful not to overheat them. A blow torch or propane heater are not recommended for this task as they could ignite the frozen area and start a fire.
If you can’t access your frozen pipe, don’t be hesitant to contact a plumber for assistance. Thawing frozen sections of pipe quickly is much better than waiting for them to thaw slowly which could eventually result in burst.
If your area often experiences freezing temperatures, heat tape can be an effective preventive measure. It helps keep metal and plastic pipes from freezing.
Heat tape comes in either bulk or individual packages, and it’s always wise to read the package instructions prior to using it for safety in your home and on pipes that have just thawed.
Heat tape that is too long or not properly applied could overheat and potentially cause a fire. To avoid this, only wrap the tape over the pipe once.
To thaw out your pipe, you can use a hair dryer or space heater to direct heat onto the frozen part. This may take several hours, but eventually will melt any ice inside and allow your water to flow again.
Before you begin, ensure your heat tape is plugged into a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) receptacle; this will shield the heating element from power surges or shorts. Furthermore, keep your heat tape away from any flammable materials or gas appliances.
Before installing heat tape, it is important to first remove any insulation covering the pipe. Failure to do so could short out the heat tape and pose a fire hazard.
Once you’ve removed the insulation, attach heat tape to your frozen pipe. For best results, wrap the tape in electrical tape and ensure it makes direct contact with the frozen portion of the pipe.
You can also place aluminum foil behind the pipe as a heat deflector to keep heat from spreading elsewhere. Doing this will enable you to thaw out frozen pipes much more quickly.
Additionally, make sure your heat tape is plugged into a GFCI outlet to avoid shorting out or overheating when temperatures drop. This is especially essential if the tape is made of copper or plastic and you are thawing a pipe covered in insulation.
In certain areas, especially Dallas-Fort Worth where winters can be cold, pipes can freeze in walls. This can be an expensive and frustrating issue. But with some effort and patience you can prevent this from occurring in the first place.
To begin, identify where the frozen pipe is located. This may be tricky if your house is large or has pier and beam construction. Once identified, act quickly to thaw out the pipe so as not to cause further damage to your residence.
One of the safest and most efficient ways to thaw out frozen pipes in walls is with a space heater. Be sure to position it correctly so that it does not directly heat the frozen section, but rather provides gradual warm heat along its entire length.
Once the heater is running, open any faucets connected to the frozen pipe section so you can monitor its progress during thawing. Doing this will relieve pressure inside the pipe and decrease its likelihood of breaking.
Another way to thaw out a frozen pipe is by wrapping the length in hot towels. If you don’t have access to hot water, melt snow or ice on the stove and dip towels into that liquid before wrapping around the frozen section and waiting for it to thaw out.
This process can take a considerable amount of time, but it can be successful in some instances. However, it should be remembered that direct heat from hot sources may cause the pipe to crack.
You could also try wrapping the frozen portion of the pipe in thermostatically controlled heat tape, which is widely available at many hardware stores for around $25 to $61. This will provide consistent warmth and help defrost your frozen section of pipe.
If none of the methods above prove successful, cutting into the wall to access frozen pipes may be necessary. Although this option can be costly, it is the only way to safely thaw out pipes stuck in walls.