Feb 20, 2015
With record-breaking winter temperatures this year, it’s not that hard to believe that even homes in the lowcountry can suffer from frozen pipes. But what should you do if your water pipes freeze? Most homeowners in beach towns like Hilton Head Island aren’t exactly prepared to handle this kind of issue.
It’s important to know that water expands when it freezes, and can sometimes cause pipes to freeze and split. Ice in the pipes will obviously block the flow of water, an obvious symptom of frozen pipes. Typically, a pipe will freeze in a small, isolated area; if no damage or splitting occurs, you can thaw it out with no problems. Here are some tips for dealing with frozen pipes and thawing them out properly:
1. If you know where the pipe is frozen, carefully inspect it for splits or damage before you thaw it. If you can see that the pipe has split, call a plumber and shut off your main water line to the house. If the pipe has been split and you try to thaw it out, it may spray water and cause more damage.
2. Always have a backup plan. Know where your water shut-off valve is and how to turn it off quickly if the need arises. Check the valve to make sure it is not stuck or damaged so you can operate it properly.
3. Never try to speed up the thawing process. You have to do it slowly. Never apply additional heat with a blowtorch or other flame – this can cause major damage by melting the pipe or creating harmful steam that can burst the pipe. You can use gentle heat like a space heater or hair dryer, but be very careful. If the frozen pipe is located underneath the sink, simply opening the cabinet doors can let in enough heat to thaw the pipe.
4. When in doubt, call a plumber. There are some situations that require a plumbing professional; you can’t do everything yourself! If you can’t find where the pipe is frozen or suspect that your water main is frozen, call a plumber. If you know the pipes are split or damaged, or your main shut-off valve is corroded, you need to call an experienced professional to ensure no further damage is done.
To prevent freezing in the future, try adding a space heater in a crawlspace near at-risk pipes, or ask a plumber to wrap the pipes. It’s also a good idea to leave a faucet on a slow drip during below-freezing temperatures. Continuously-running water can help keep your pipes from freezing. Stay warm this winter! Only a few weeks left until spring!
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