My daughter called me early the other morning. Her master bathroom is poorly insulated from her garage, and although the water was flowing easily through the water pipe to the rest of her home, water wasn’t running out of her bathroom faucets – did she have a leak? More than likely, I told her, she had a frozen pipe!
North Texas, we just had the coldest weather we’ve had in twenty years this February. I’m sure my daughter, (who knows the dangers of frozen pipes by the way), isn’t the only one who didn’t consider that this year was a different situation than years past. Those single digit and below temperatures can really stop things up tight, potentially causing some significant damage when pipes decide to thaw.
When it stays that cold for several days in a row, how do you thaw a water pipe safely so it won’t leak or burst and cause a real mess after freezing temperatures?
In my daughter’s case, the pipes she figured were frozen were located in an outdoor wall adjacent to her garage. That meant she had to warm up the garage! No small feat when it’s that cold. The garage didn’t have to be warm, just not freezing. She opened her laundry room door that connected the garage to her home, and set a fan in place to blow her home’s heated air into the garage. Next, she and her husband opened up the faucets so they could see results. They also opened up the cabinets under the sinks and put a space heater in the bathroom at a safe distance. Those rolling blackouts did nothing to help.
Remember, ice was pretty thick on the streets. She wasn’t about to have us come to HER house to thaw her pipes for her! (We have tools for that.) There’s something a little prideful about a plumber’s daughter!
After several hours, she got disturbed that nothing was happening. She didn’t want to be too aggressive and have a mess, but she knew the longer they stayed frozen the worse the problem would get. She started to think, “The hot and cold water lines are near each other in the wall and near the drain, what would happen if I warmed up the drain pipe?”
After draining the hot water heater completely by filling jars and pouring hot water down each of the drains, they finally got water to flow. She then left the water flowing just a trickle the rest of the evening. When it was time to go to bed, she didn’t want the door to the garage open any longer, so she closed it and turned off the fan. It wouldn’t be a gamble if she cranked up the heat, she reasoned.
Now, you and I both know that the frozen pipe wasn’t in the outside wall after all! If it was, no hot water down the drain would have thawed it. Instead, it had frozen at the ‘L’ joints going up to the bathroom from the garage ceiling. Concentrated heat in that area would have been a better choice – and probably cost a lot less than the electric and water bills about to come! (But she didn’t call us for help and didn’t know where the freeze really was.)
You’re probably not related to me, and you probably don’t suffer from “Plumber’s Daughter Pride” so just call us when you get into these situations. Your friendly NE Dallas plumbers will be happy to help you get your home functioning again!
Just in case we don’t harp on it enough, make sure you wrap your exposed pipes during freezing weather – even if they’re in the garage. Foam insulation is easy to apply yourself and available at your home improvement stores. If you can’t do that yourself, by all means, we can help you! Call 972-424-6479 whenever you need help preparing for a freeze.