Got Frozen Pipes?

Fear not! We are here to help.

Here in Charlotte, we are about to experience some dips in temperature. The current forecast includes a low of 8 degrees on Sunday, which is pretty dang cold for North Carolina. Unfortunately, most homes in the South are not built for the cold. That means many Charlotte homeowners have exposed pipes in garages, crawl spaces, attics, and leading to and from wells. Even some spots in your home may be not be insulated enough to protect pipes inside your home – especially not when we hit a streak of cold days like the ones coming up this weekend.

How to Tell if You Have Frozen Pipes

You wake up in the morning, turn on the faucet, and only a trickle of water comes out.

Uh, oh. Frozen pipes.

Sometimes it’s not as obvious as this. You might have water running in some faucets but not others. That simply means some pipes are frozen and some are not. The following are signs that you have frozen pipes somewhere in your home:

  • Only a trickle of water comes out of a faucet
  • No water is running at all
  • Some of your faucets or other appliances are not getting adequate water flow

Sometimes you won’t notice that pipes are frozen because they are completely outside of your home (for example, irrigation systems, outdoor hoses, or pipes that lead to a pool, hot tub, or waterfall/artificial pond in your yard).

How to Find Frozen Pipes in Your Home

Once you’ve determined you have frozen pipes, you need to figure out where the problems begin and end. Your home is crisscrossed with pipes, and you probably don’t even have visual access to most of the pipes. There can be hundreds of feet of pipe inside, and somewhere in that web of metal or PVC is a section filled with ice. However, pipes typically freeze in the following places:

  • In the garage
  • In the crawl space
  • In the attic
  • In the basement
  • Under sinks where pipes are inside cabinets (the cabinets, when closed, don’t allow heat to get to the pipes, making the air inside the cabinets significantly colder than the air in the room)
  • Exterior points (where pipes reach from the outside to the interior of your home)
  • In the yard (on the way to your home from a well or from the water main to the interior of the house)

You can determine where the problem starts by going through your home and trying different faucets. Is the water running in certain parts of your house but not in others? If all the faucets in a single room don’t work, the frozen pipe is between the split from the main line. If all the faucets on that particular floor don’t work, it’s between where the first and second floor pipes separate.

If none of your faucets work, the frozen segment is probably somewhere near where the main water pipe enters the house. Pipes usually freeze in areas that are not well insulated, like along exterior walls.

Once you determine the area where the pipes are probably frozen, you have to figure out exactly where your problem is. If the pipe isn’t the main feeder pipe, it’s probably within the walls and probably difficult to access. If you’re lucky, the frozen pipe section an exposed segment of pipe near a faucet. If the problem is the main feeder pipe, you’ll need to explore in the basement or crawl space and try to find the problem area.

You may be able to identify the frozen segment visually. Look for the telltale layer of condensation or frost. If you can’t tell by looking, start touching the pipes. The frozen segment of pipe will be colder than the other areas.

How to Thaw Frozen Pipes (So They Don’t Burst!)

The big danger in pipes freezing lies in the science: water expands when it freezes. Pipes crack due to the stress of that expansion.

You will want to thaw your pipes by doing one of the following:

  • Use a hair dryer to apply warm heat (medium or low heat, not high heat)
  • Use a space heater to warm the entire room (not too close to the pipe)
  • Wrap the pipe with a heating pad on low or medium
  • Wrap the pipe with towels dipped in warm water (replace often until pipe thaws)

Leave the faucet on so that you can tell when the thawing has completed. Then take steps to prevent the pipes from refreezing (especially if cold temps are expected to continue.) Click here to read ways to prevent pipes from freezing in the first place. Prevention is best!

After you’ve thawed the pipes, check for signs of leaks. In many cases, pipes crack and water seeps out slowly. Many pipes burst in places that you can’t see visually, so you may need to check your water meter and/or water bill. Click here to learn how to check for hidden leaks.

What to Do If a Pipe Bursts

If a pipe bursts, you’ll want to take the following actions:

  • Shut off the water to that particular segment of pipe, if it’s isolated to one area.
  • Shut off the water to the whole house if it is not isolated. (Click here to learn how to shut off the water main.)
  • Place a bucket under the leak, if you can see it.
  • Call a plumber.

Water damage can be quite costly to fix, so it’s best to act proactively and quickly to detect and repair leaks.

Need a Charlotte Plumber?

Worried that you’ve got a leak due to frozen pipes? Live within 30 miles of Charlotte? We’re Charlotte plumbers with 30+ years experience, ready to help. Give us a call at 704-269-1066 or click here to use our online contact form. We’re open 24/7, 365 days a year, and we never charge extra for weekends, evenings, or holidays.

How to thaw frozen pipes