Thaw Out Frozen Pipes Safely

Edited by Robbi, Anonymous, Lynn, Doug Collins and 3 others


You notice it first thing in the morning when you go to the bathroom, or later when you are in the kitchen - you turn on the faucet and nothing happens. If it has been an especially cold night, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that somewhere in your plumbing system, a pipe has likely frozen.

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Although this may seem like a catastrophe of monumental proportions, among home repair jobs, this is one of the easiest. However, if the problem turns out to be one for which you cannot take action, you will need to call a plumber right away. You will first need to put on your detective's cap and discover the source of the problem and then plan your attack.

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Items you may need:

  • Heat tape
  • Heat lamp
  • Hand held hair dryer

How to Find the Area and Unthaw Your Frozen Pipes

  1. 1
    Isolate the problem – By checking all the faucets in the house, you can work out where the freezing has occurred.
    If it is in only one sink then you know the problem is in the pipes under that sink. If the problem extends to all the faucets, the most likely place is where the water comes into the house. This would be either through a basement wall or in the crawlspace under the house.
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  2. 2
    Open all faucets.
    This will not only let you know when you have succeeded in thawing your pipes, but also when the water flowing will aid in clearing all ice out of the pipes.
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  3. 3
    Thaw Pipe - Once you have found the site of the freeze, you can apply heat and thaw out the pipe.
    How long the pipe has been frozen will determine how far the freezing extends. Usually, if a pipe has frozen overnight it won't be frozen its entire length. For maximum efficiency, start at the most likely place the freezing occurred. You should be able to determine this by examination of the areas exposed to cold or the wind.
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  4. 4
    Be patient - it may take an hour or more to unthaw frozen pipes safely.
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  5. 5
    When the water is running again, remove the heat from the affected pipe and let faucets run for a few minutes.
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  6. 6
    A little preventive home maintenance can prevent future frozen pipes.
    When the temperatures are expected to be uncommonly low for your area, take the following precautions.  
    1. Leave faucets dripping.
    2. Wrap with heat tape.
    3. Wrap pipes with insulation (year round).
    4. If pipes go through an unheated garage, leave the door open from garage to house.
    5. Going to be away from home for several days? Turn off the water and drain pipes to prevent freezing.
    6. Keep cabinet doors open to expose pipes under sinks.
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  • If you use heat tape, do not wind it over itself
  • If you use a heat lamp, do not place it anywhere near flammable materials and do not leave the house while it is being used.
  • Do not place directly below the pipe; when the pipe thaws out it may leak into a lamp positioned underneath it.
  • Don't leave the house unattended until pipes thaw. You won't know if pipes have burst until they thaw.
  • Don't risk using a blowtorch or any open flame.

Questions and Answers

How long will it take for pipes to thaw?

This will depend on the severity of how bad the pipes were frozen for with some methods of thawing for pipes that are moderately frozen then you will have a wait time of about 2 hours without applied heat.

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There is no real solid answer I can give you on this. The amount of variables involved would be too high. It all depends on which pipes in the house are frozen. Whether or not they are above ground level makes a big difference. Overall the location of the pipes in the house both vertical and horizontal, as well as the temperature and amount of sun all have an effect on the thawing time.

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See more questions like this: How long will it take for heat tape to thaw pipes

Should I let frozen pipe thaw out by itself?

Yes, it is recommended for you to allow the pipes to thaw themselves out alone without applying any water or extra techniques for this can cause the pipes to burst which can cause more harm to your pipes.

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It will be totally fine for you to let it thaw out on its own but it will depend on the severity of how frozen the pipes are in this situation. If you are not in a rush then this means that you can allow them to thaw out on their own, also if the pipes are frozen to the point the pipe is cracking then you will need to replace the pipe/thaw immediately.

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How to fix a frozen water pipe if the water is frozen in the pipe leading to only in one sink? Do I need to turn off the water for the whole house?

No, it is not necessary if the pipe that you are talking about goes down to the drain other than the pipe that the water comes from in this situation. If the pipe you are talking about is not use to direct water to the faucet then you will not need to turn off all the water in the house.

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No, if the pipe is only leading to the sink there will be no need to have to turn off the water to the whole home. But understand that the pipe can still burst and cause a problem if not attended to whether or not the water is on or off.

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Is it safe to leave the house unattended with a frozen pipe? #18?

No, depending on how frozen the pipes you may in fact have an issue where your pipes will burst thus spilling water all over the house non stop with no one to help cut the water off or change the pipe once it starts spilling out.

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No, you should not leave frozen pipes unattended. You should always try to ensure that you have adequate heating to ensure the pipes don't freeze. If they freeze bad enough it may end up leading to the pipes bursting the next time someone tries to turn them on.

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Can a pipe freezing cause the pipe to burst?

Yes, depending on the severity of the freezing the pipes can in fact burst. This happens when the pipes freeze without being attended to properly in order for it to get thawed out. This happens at times when peoples pipes freeze without them knowing and later on the pipes are founded to be burst.

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Can you put heat tape inside a pipe to thaw it out?

Absolutely you can, this will be your last option if the other methods of thawing you're frozen pipes won't actually be fix. These tapes surely will come in handy, but in order to apply this tape you must first need to ensure that you are on the right spot and apply on the exact amount needed to thaw the frozen pipe.

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I noticed that my pipes in basement kitchen are frozen, and water is not coming out from the faucet?

Those pipes are against the exterior wall, and I am heating them almost 8 hours

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Do you leave faucet on when thawing overnight frozen pipe in wall?

Yes, this can help in your situation to prevent the ice from forming but if the pipes are thawing themselves out if is recommended to leave the cabinet doors open with the heat on in your home in order to allow the pipes to thaw out safely.

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You can leave a faucet on in order to keep it from freezing as easily. If you leave the water on with a slight drizzle it will keep it from freezing as easily during a cold night, because moving water has a lower freezing temp. If the pipe is already completely frozen then turning water on may just cause it to burst as the water builds up pressure behind the ice.

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I live in the country in a mobile home. My pipes are frozen as of Sunday morning. I have a heating lamp in my pump house and I'm able to get water from the faucet located in my pump house. None of my pipes has busted so that is good. My question is will and can my pipes unfreeze on its own?

Will my my pipes thawed out on its own

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I managed to unthaw my pipes but its taking a long time for the water to get hot is that typical? Been running the faucets for about about 20 minutes?

Pipes were frozen for about a day and a half.. I have tried: Heat on all potentially frozen areas of the piping did unthaw them.. I think it was caused by: There was a small gap where heat tape ended and where I connect to the city water line.

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Categories : Home Repair

Recent edits by: Eng, Ephraim, Doug Collins

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