Winter is upon us. Besides bundling up from the cold and shoveling snow, homeowners sometimes have to deal with the additional task of fixing frozen pipes.
Prevention is the Best Medicine
The best way to deal with frozen pipes is to prevent them in the first place. 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. I have seen even insulated pipes in outside walls freeze.
If, however, 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. It is better than nothing.
How to Fix a Frozen Pipe
If in the event you do find yourself with a frozen pipe, then I recommend the following:
- Close the supply line valve and open the faucet at the end of the pipe.
- Examine the entire length of pipe looking for cracks, breaks or holes, particularly focusing on the suspect cold areas, e.g. crawl spaces and outside walls.
Thaw Out the Damaged Pipe
Once the crack, break or hole has been identified, use a hair dryer to heat up the surrounding pipe area to get the water flowing again through the pipe. Check the faucet regularly to see when the water begins to flow again. 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 will be limited as the supply line valve was shut off.
Repairing the Damaged Supply Line
- Once the damaged pipe area has been thawed out, using a hack saw or pipe cutter, remove a section of pipe that includes the broken section.
- Replace this section of pipe. Use a propane torch, solder and flux to sweat the new joints.
- If you are not comfortable cutting and replacing the damaged pipe, pending the size of the crack or break you could simply wrap duct tape or electrical tape around the affected area for a temporary fix. However, a plumber should be brought in as soon as possible to fix the leak permanently.
- Once the pipe has been repaired, turn the supply line valve back on, run the faucet and check the repaired site for any leaks.
- Finally, apply some pipe insulation and/or electrical pipe-heating wire around the repaired area to prevent the problem from occurring again.