How Can I Tell If My Pipes Are Frozen, And What Can I Do About It?

Posted on: 9 February 2015


Pipes usually freeze when temperatures drop into lows well below freezing. Knowing how to identify whether or not your pipes have frozen will help you to resolve the problem appropriately. Many homeowners can thaw their own pipes without calling a plumber for help.  

Signs of Frozen Pipes

If the outside temperatures where you live have recently dropped below freezing, then your pipes may have frozen. Look for frozen pipes in unheated and uninsulated parts of your house, like the attic, basement, garage and inside cabinets. Once you've identified a possible frozen pipe, look for these tell-tale signs:

  • No water comes out of the faucet. Depending on which pipe has frozen, some of the faucets in your home may be working and others may not. If you're unable to get water to come out of some of your faucets, this is a good sign that your pipes are frozen. Even if water is coming out of the pipe, if the pipe is frozen, you may only get a small trickle. 
  • Your pipe is extremely cold to the touch. Your frozen pipe will be full of ice, so the pipe itself will feel like ice when you touch it. 
  • Your pipe has frost on the outside. When you're searching for frozen pipes, look carefully for a layer of frost on the outside of each pipe.

What to Do if Your Pipe Is Frozen

Once you've identified that you have a frozen pipe, thawing it should be easy. 

  1. Open the faucet all the way.
  2. Fill a bucket with hot water.
  3. Soak a towel in the hot water from the bucket.
  4. Wring the towel out (but leave it saturated with some water).
  5. Wrap the warm towel around the pipe. 
  6. Leave the towel on the pipe for 30 seconds to a minute.
  7. Put the towel back in the bucket. 
  8. Repeat steps 4 through 7 until the pipe has thawed. 

There are other ways to thaw a pipe. Homeowners have used hair dryers, electric blankets or even blow torches for this task. All of these methods may be slightly faster than using a wet towel, but there are some downsides as well. Any method that combines an electronic device with a frozen pipe has the potential for electrocution. In addition, using a blow torch to thaw a pipe can inflict serious damage to your plumbing. 

If you're unable to thaw your pipe personally, or if you're unable to find the frozen pipe, contact a certified plumber in your area like A Absolute Plumbing & Heating. He or she will be able to thaw your pipe safely and efficiently.