Frozen water pipes, what to do

If water has frozen in the pipes it is a serious problem that must be solved immediately.

Frozen water pipe

If the water pipes are not sufficiently insulated the risk of water freezing in the pipes is serious, but even a good insulation will not be able to prevent the solidification of water when the ambient temperature is maintained for some time below 0 C°.

We have already seen in another article how to try to prevent the risk of frozen pipes, now let's see how to fix it in the unfortunate case in which the water has frozen.

If we open the tap and do not see water coming in, there can be two explanations:

  1. as a result of the frost a pipe has broken and the water is escaping before reaching the tap
  2. the water has frozen inside the pipes and constitutes a plug to the circulation inside the water system.

In the first case it won't take long to notice the damage and therefore we should immediately close the general valve and call a plumber.

In the second case, we have to try to understand in which part of the system the water is frozen and, consequently, make some attempts to try to melt the ice plug.

Anti-freeze products for pipes

First of all we open all taps in turn and try to deduce where the water might be frozen.

If the water doesn't come in, leave the taps open as it is always better that the compression of the ice inside the pipes finds a point of release, so that the taps do not blow up as well.

Even if the water does not come much, it is a good idea to leave the faucet open because, however little it may come out, if the water flows through the system it will avoid freezing completely and sooner or later it should melt the ice plug.

The areas where pipes are most likely to freeze are the ones that are obviously most exposed, so start there and check.

Unfortunately, sometimes the water freezes right in the area of the meters, especially when they have been placed in a niche in an exterior wall. If possible, it is always best to bury the meters in a dedicated manhole.

Metal pipes are potentially more affected by frost but, on the other hand, it is easier to intervene on metal pipes when we have to thaw them.

If the pipes run outside the walls and we have identified the point where they are frozen, here are the attempts we can put in place to try to resolve the situation.

Hot air on pipes to melt ice

A hair dryer can be used to heat a frozen pipe by setting the hair dryer to the hottest temperature.

It is a process that requires patience as heating a frozen pipe may take some time.

The advantage is that this method can also be used for polyethylene pipes as it does not cause "thermal shock" that could damage the pipes.

Hot water on the frozen pipe section

This method, like the ones we will describe later, should only be used with metal pipes.

We start by wrapping the affected part of the pipe with one or more very absorbent rags and start dousing them with boiling water. The rags serve to retain the heat of the water longer, which would otherwise have a limited effect.

Do not pour the boiling water in one go but in several times.

Gas torch

pipes gas torch

A very quick method, but suitable only for iron pipes, is to heat the frozen pipe with a gas torch.

Before using this method, it is a good idea to protect the wall behind with a panel of fire-resistant insulation material.

The flame must be kept rather close to the pipe and must be moved with slow passes.

Heating cables

On the market you can find heating cables that are extremely useful in cases of frozen pipes.

It is basically an electrical resistance covered with a plastic sheath that is wrapped in a spiral around the pipe and then connected to the electrical network.

The advantage of heating cables is that they can also be applied to plastic pipes and not only metal ones.

The video below shows how heating cables work for plumbing applications.

Professional Pipe Thawers

This last resource is more aimed at the professional user than at the domestic user due, mainly, to the fairly high cost of these tools.

They look outwardly almost like battery chargers with two pliers to connect to exclusively metal pipes.

Below we present some of these machines with links to the manufacturer.

Pipe Thawer 3Pipe Thawer 21 pipe thawer

DIY Editor
Do-it-yourself enthusiast. I started with the renovation of my flat and then I changhed this passion into my job.