How to Unfreeze Pipes

Frozen pipes pose a huge risk to the state of your home or business and has the potential to cause a lot of water wastage. When water in pipes freeze, they exert pressure on the pipes of up to 2,000 pounds per square inch. The risk here is that pipes are subject to rupturing. If a pipe is ruptured, it can release hundreds of gallons of water per hour.

If you find that you have a frozen pipe that hasn’t ruptured yet, there are several ways you can unfreeze it safely. Do not use a blow torch or any type of open flame to do it – this is not safe and presents a fire hazard.

How to identify a frozen pipe

Generally, if you’re looking at a pipe and it’s coated in frost, or it looks big and bulging, it’s probably frozen.

If you can’t tell by looking at it, check for any faucets that have stopped flowing – this is a good indicator of frozen water in pipes.

Thawing the pipe

Firstly, shut off the main water supply to that area of plumbing, or the entire house if you are unsure. Prepare towels and a mop and bucket, as there is likely to be gushes of water after you thaw the pipe.

Open the faucet that the pipe is feeding into – make sure both the hot and cold handles are open. This will help relieve any pressure and ensure that the gushing is not as bad once the ice begins to thaw.

Always start the thawing process near the faucet and work your way down.

What to use for exposed pipes:

If the pipe is located in an open space where you can see it, then there are a few things you can use to thaw the pipe:

  • Hair dryer: This is the easiest method. Turn the hair dryer on at its highest heat setting and point the heat directly at the pipe. Make sure the hair dryer does not come in contact with water while you are operating it.
  • Heat lamp/space heater: If you have one of these, place it so that the heat reaches the pipe. This method uses indirect heat which can quickly help thaw the pipe. But also with this one, be careful about coming into contact with water.
  • Hot towels: Heat up some towels in hot water and wrap them around the pipes. This will help slowly thaw the ice.
  • Electrical heating tape: Apply electrical heating tape directly to the pipe. This tape distributes heat through the pipe.

Thawing enclosed pipes

Thawing pipes that are not exposed require different methods:

  • Heat up your property: Turn up the heater/thermostat in your home to increase the overall temperature in your property.
  • Use an infrared lamp: If you know where exactly the pipe is frozen, attempt to thaw it using one of these lamps.
  • Cut out a section in your drywall: Only if you are comfortable doing so, cut out a part in your drywall so you can easily access the pipe to thaw it using the methods above.