Waking up in the middle of the night to get a glass of water is a common occurrence in my home; but, when a simple task like that is halted by the unmistakable sound of a weak hiss from the faucet with no liquid to find… Yep, there’s a problem. If it’s winter, the pipes are probably frozen.
If only I followed my dad’s advice the night before, “the temperature is supposed to drop below 0 degrees tonight, make sure you keep your cold water tap open just a drip, it will keep your pipes from freezing”, I would be sipping on fresh well water right now…
“GREAT, what do I do now?” I don’t want my pipes to burst, causing an average of $5,000 per insurance claim.
Have you ever been in this situation?
If you have, first thing you should do is check the other faucets; is there water coming from any of the faucets in your home? If not, then you’re definitely frozen.
Now you need to find the main shut off to stop water from being supplied to your house, since this pressure is what could cause your pipes to burst. To find the shut off, check out Water Shutoff.
[I recommend locating your main shut off location BEFORE an emergency occurs]
Side note: If you rent, now would be a good time to contact your landlord and let them decide the next steps. Otherwise, follow along below.
Now you have a few options
Option 1: Call Your Plumber
If it’s the middle of the night, try and wait until at least 7AM if you have your plumbers personal number, otherwise you can call their business and leave a voicemail so they’re aware that one of their valued customers have a problem as soon as they open.
[Be aware, if your pipes are frozen, there’s a good chance you’re not the only call for that plumber today].
Shortly after knowing you’ve got a problem, your professional will show up to assess the situation. You’ll be out a couple of bucks here, but hiring a professional will be the best option if you’re apprehensive about solving your own home issues.
Option 2: Call your family/friend who is good at this stuff
This has almost always been the option that my family members have always opted to go first. We can all agree, it’s usually more comfortable to have a friend or family member in your home than a stranger at 3AM.
If they can’t fix it, then you can call in a professional. (As long as the person you called isn’t going to make things worse!)
One tip, just leave the person alone unless they need your help. There’s nothing worse than a hovering home-owner when you need to think.
Option 3: Do It Yourself
This is personally my favorite option.
So, once the main supply is shut off, you’ll need to locate your pipes.
Do you have a basement? Yes? GREAT! Your pipes should be pretty easy to find, since they should be running along the ceiling of your basement (what would be the floors to the rooms above), just follow the pipes to find the frostiest one. But the fact that they’ve frozen tells me one thing… YOUR BASEMENT IS COLD! Brrrr.
Okay, you don’t have a basement? That’s cool too. Well. Colder actually.
Your pipes are under your home, probably in a crawl space that you’re not looking forward to getting in when it’s below 0 degrees outside. So, bundle up, grab a flashlight and follow me.
And keep an eye out for any animals who may have set up a comfortable home of their own under your home.
You’re under your home, and you’ve located your pipes. Which one is frosty? Probably the one furthest away from the main supply pipe, since logically that pipe will see a decrease in pressure after every elbow the water travels, right?… Maybe.
Now that you’ve found the pipes, you’ve located the frozen area, it’s time to move to step 2. Grab a hair dryer, space heater, or if you have access to thermal heating tapes, grab those instead. And open the valves on at least one faucet in your home, so the water can start moving.
You’ll need an extension cord in some cases to reach the pipes. Then make sure there are no flammable materials around the pipe you’re going to heat.
If you have heating tapes, go ahead and wrap that frozen pipe and plug it in. Viola, you’ll be thawed in no time. If you don’t have those tapes, you should try the hair dryer first. Then the ceramic heater if there is a place to set it close enough to the pipes (don’t stand there and hold it near the pipes like an jester). If those two don’t work, then go get some tapes or a heat gun (a real one will get much hotter than a hair dryer).
Once you (or a helper) can hear and see water flowing from your faucets, go back and turn your main water supply back on.
You’re good to go.. Next time, keep your water valve open to a fast drip, like dad said.