How to Prevent a Frozen Pipe from Bursting

Posted November 12, 2015

When a water pipe in your home freezes and bursts, it can cause major damage to your home. Plumbing in attics, crawl spaces, and outside walls is most susceptible to freezing, particularly if there are gaps that allow cold air to flow across the pipes. The Building Research Council at the University of Illinois tested home plumbing systems and demonstrated that, for un-insulated pipes installed in an unheated attic, freezing happens when the outside temperature falls to 20°F or below. Pipes that may be prone to freezing and that are accessible can be fitted with insulation sleeves or wrapping to slow the transfer of heat. It's important not to leave gaps that expose the pipe to cold air. Cracks and gaps in outside walls near water pipes should be sealed to keep cold air away from the pipes. Because kitchen and bathroom cabinets can prevent heat from reaching pipes under sinks and near outside walls, keeping cabinet doors open during cold spells will let the warm indoor air circulate around the pipes. During extreme cold, letting faucets run slowly can lessen the risk of bursting pipes. The water in the pipe may still freeze, but the pressure on the pipe will be lessened. If you're leaving home for an extended period during the cold winter weather, consider draining water from the pipes. Also, remember not to leave your thermostat set too low.

What to do if you have a frozen pipe

If you open a faucet and the water isn't flowing, don't take chances; call ABC. If a water pipe bursts, turn off the water at the main shut-off valve. Leave the affected faucet(s) open until a plumber has inspected the pipes to ensure there is no damage. Never attempt to thaw a frozen pipe with an open flame, like a candle or propane torch, as this will damage the pipe and be a fire hazard.

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