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McCourt Real Estate Blog

Frozen Pipes - Prevention and Thawing

December 16th, 2008 8:40 AM by Caren McCourt-Crane

So, maybe no snowmen in West Texas....yet!  But, icy times are here!  Remember, to adjust your sprinkler system.  No one, I know, purposely wants a frozen, crunchy lawn!  And for businesses, it's a fast lesson in customer service, when you have some upset people who have slipped on your freshly watererd sidewalks and maybe even more if your watering has created ice patches on our city streets! - Caren

The cold temperatures of winter bring with them the chilly fun of snowmen and sledding, but they also bring the danger of frozen pipes. When it's cold outside, it's important to take preventative measures to keep your pipes from freezing. And, if they've frozen already, you need to get them thawed quickly, before they burst and ruin your wintry fun!

Especially if you have outside pipes, plumbing located in external walls, or pipes in unheated spaces, you need to be extra careful. Several simple steps can help prevent frozen pipes. First, if you have vulnerable plumbing, just leave the faucet dripping at a slight trickle. The moving water won't be able to freeze solid, negating the danger of burst pipes. The second basic precaution is simply to keep your pipes warm. This can be achieved in many different ways, from installing a portable heater near problem pipes or in unheated areas like crawlspaces to wrapping pipes in insulation.

Once you've put precautions in place, be sure to routinely inspect your plumbing. A frozen pipe is obvious if no water comes out of the faucet, but they can also be detected visually. Pipes with frost on the outside, those covered in ice, and ones that are bulging or appear to have small fissures are frozen. Once the plumbing begins to bulge, it is critical that the pipe be defrosted immediately, as bursting is imminent.

Things get trickier once a pipe is frozen. Frozen pipes must be thawed as soon as they are discovered. Waiting only increases the likelihood of a cracked pipe and the ensuing flood. Never use an open flame to thaw a pipe. While this technique has been used in the past, it is extremely dangerous. You are far more likely to start a house fire than defrost your pipes. There are several safe do-it-yourself techniques, including infrared heat lamps and specialized electric heat tape that you wrap around the pipe. However, if you don't have these specialized tools on hand, your best bet is to contact a pipe thawing professional. They will be able to efficiently and safely thaw your pipes.

It's best to avoid frozen pipes by taking precautionary measures, but if you do end up with iced up plumbing, it doesn't have to be a disaster. Whether you choose the DIY method or a plumber with pipe thawing expertise, your pipes can be safely defrosted so you can enjoy the rest of the winter.

Matt Gallo is a home improvement hobbyist and the Internet Marketing Manager for Prospect Genius, a leading provider of online, local advertising. Learn more at

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Posted by Caren McCourt-Crane on December 16th, 2008 8:40 AM



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