If a frozen water pipe bursts, it can wreak extensive damage to your home’s ceilings, the floors, walls and furniture. You’ll need to act immediately, shut off your property’s mains water supply and call a plumber.
Here, however, are some ways you can act to prevent the worst from happening.
First of all, know the symptoms of a frozen pipe. Turn on a tap. If nothing happens or just a dribble comes out of it or any of your other taps, the problem is general and it’s best to call a professional. If it’s a problem with just the one tap, you can look to locate and thaw the frozen portion of the tap’s feed pipe.
Look for an uninsulated portion of the pipe, or sections running along an outside wall or in a colder area of your home (such as a basement or attic). Feel along the pipe to determine the frozen spot. Frozen pipes often have frost on them or they may bulge slightly.
Turn on the tap served by the frozen pipe. This will help water flow through the pipe as the frozen area is thawed, alleviating pressure and allowing more ice in the pipe to melt.
By warming the frozen section, you will cause the ice inside to melt and the water pressure to force it out through the open tap. Wrap the frozen pipe with hot towels or with electric heat tape. Alternatively, heat with a hairdryer, heat lamp or small portable heater if an electric socket is close by. NEVER use a blowtorch. This can boil the water inside the pipe and cause an explosion. The open flame can also present a serious risk of fire as well as exposure to combustion fumes.
Always heat from the tap end to the frozen area of the pipe so that water can flow out of the pipe as the ice melts. Thawing closer to the blockage can cause the melting ice to get stuck behind the obstruction, creating more pressure in the pipe and increasing the chances of it bursting.
Continue to apply the heat until the water escaping from the tap returns to full strength. Run the tap for several minutes.
Now turn off the tap and check its feed pipe for leaks. If you find one, turn off the mains supply. The pipe will need to be either replaced or patched.
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