Why Do Pipes Freeze?No matter how strong a home’s plumbing pipes are, frozen water is a formidable and expanding force that can cause destruction. Water expands greatly in its frozen state, and the force released due to the expansion can cause even metal pipes to crack or burst. Minute cracks can lead to water damage that goes unnoticed for long periods of time. A common reason plumbing pipes freeze is because they are not insulated. Plumbing can be placed under flooring and in crawl spaces or basements where temperatures can drop lower than other areas of the home. Pipe freezing is an issue that can be stressful to handle. Knowing the warning signs allows homeowners to be proactive.
How to Tell If Plumbing Pipes are FrozenThere are multiple signs a homeowner may notice when they have a problem with frozen pipes. Being aware of these signs is essential for ensuring the homeowner will know when to call a plumber to have their pipes repaired.
- One of the first signs homeowners will notice is a lack of water coming out of their faucets. If multiple faucets are not producing water, it is time to seek plumbing repair. When this is occurring, it means the water has frozen in part of the pipe and the pressure is no longer high enough to push water through. It can also mean the pipe is completely blocked because of the expanded ice.
- If a homeowner can see their exposed pipes, they may be covered in an icy residue. They may also have a coating of condensation on the outer surface. Should this occur, it likely means the inside of the pipe is completely frozen in that section. The most vulnerable pipes are those located under flooring, in the basement, or in outside walls.
- Sometimes, the sewer line will freeze and this can produce a strong sewer smell in the home. If sewer smells are infiltrating the home when temperatures outside are below freezing, this could mean there is a frozen sewer line that needs attention. A frozen sewer line can rupture and create a big mess for homeowners to handle.
- It is common for frozen pipes to exhibit unusual sounds. Gurgling, clanging, and banging are prevalent as the ice begins to thaw and move. In some cases, the home’s hot water heater may begin to moan and groan as water slowly begins to flow again. If a frozen pipe bursts, homeowners may need to seek a plumber for repiping. This process allows old pipes to be replaced and insulated so the problem of freezing is halted.
- Another sign of frozen pipes is a pipe that has become cracked. Cracked pipes occur when the pressure inside builds up due to freezing water. Pipes that are cracked can lead to serious water damage if the water supply is not shut off before the thaw occurs. Over time, frequent freezing can lead to weakened pipes. If a pipe is weakened, it is more likely to succumb to the pressure exerted by the expanding ice.
Improperly Thawing Pipes Can Be DangerousSome homeowners make the mistake of trying to heat up their pipes to thaw them quickly. Using a space heater or a hairdryer is not recommended and can lead to cracks due to the quick change in temperature. The right tools are needed to carefully thaw pipes, and plumbers have been trained to remove ice obstructions safely and effectively from plumbing lines. There are many methods people use to thaw their pipes. There have been news stories where home and apartment fires have been started because of people using torches and other heat tools to try to thaw their pipes. They think this will solve their problem, but it often leads to much greater issues. Not only will these devices cause the possibility of fires, but they can also lead to serious injuries. These heating tools can even cause certain types of pipes to melt which could lead to leaks or a major influx of water in the home. It is wise for homeowners to rely on a professional plumber to ensure their frozen pipes are handled properly so no injuries or damages occur. A plumber should be called right away so the water will begin to flow again without using unsafe measures.
How to Protect Pipes from Becoming FrozenBecause frozen pipes can be such a hassle, prevention is important. Thankfully, there are some steps homeowners can take to ensure their pipes are less likely to freeze during the coldest of weather. Taking the following steps will keep the pipes in your home running as they should, even when the outdoor temperatures begin to drop below freezing.
- If you own a swimming pool or a sprinkler system, properly draining the lines before winter hits is essential. These lines are susceptible to freezing and should be drained to avoid issues. Many homeowners rely on their landscaping company to handle the drain lines for winter preparation.
- Adding insulation to vulnerable areas in the home is essential for protection against frozen pipes. The attic, crawlspaces, and basement should all be checked for a lack of insulation. Adding insulation will help to keep these areas warmer so freezing is less likely to occur.
- Outside hoses should be removed and put away in storage until winter is over and they are needed again. These hoses are especially vulnerable to freezing because they are exposed to the elements. Putting them away and keeping the drain line open will allow for ice expansion without causing damage to the line.
- Asking a plumber about pipe insulation is also helpful. There are different products that can be used to protect pipes and keep the temperatures inside warmer so freezing does not occur. While you can certainly take a DIY approach, it is wise to consult with a professional plumber to ensure the right products are purchased and installed correctly.
- Checking for exposed pipes will help you to determine where added protection is needed. Under the sink and in the garage are two areas that are sometimes overlooked. When in doubt, an inspection carried out by a plumber can prove useful in identifying the areas that need attention inside and outside the home.
- If some areas of pipe are becoming chronically frozen, having a plumber reroute the lines may be the best method of preventing refreezing. Rerouting is best carried out by a professional plumber who can make sure everything is installed according to code.