It wonít be long before winter is
upon us once more. For those of us living in northern climates weíll have to get
use to bundling up and shoveling snow again. And for some unfortunate homeowners
theyíll also have to contend with frozen pipes during the winter months. Iíve
personally had to deal with fixing a couple of frozen pipes in my homes over the
years and in the subsequent paragraphs below I provide tips on how to make your
own frozen pipe repairs.
Preventing Frozen Pipes
When it comes to frozen pipes the best solution is to make sure they never
You can do that in multiple ways. If
you are having a home built make sure the plumber routes all plumbing lines on
inside walls, and in particular the supply lines. No supply line should be
installed on exterior walls. Even the best insulated exterior walls cannot
always be adequate enough for preventing a water pipe from freezing. Likewise,
foam wrapped around plumbing supply lines is just as inadequate for protecting
them from freezing when placed in exterior walls. Also make sure no plumbing
supply lines are routed into cold attic spaces. A frozen pipe located in an
attic that breaks and then subsequently spews water down onto your finished
drywall ceilings is a major and expensive disaster.
If you have an existing home with plumbing supply lines in exterior walls I
highly recommend paying the price and having them moved. It is a controlled
expense that you can plan for when acting in a preventative manner, versus an
uncontrolled and much more expensive situation when the pipe breaks unexpectedly
during a cold winter night.
How to Fix a Frozen Pipe
If water will not flow out of a faucet when you turn it on, or you are no longer
getting any heat out of your baseboard heaters, and you canít find a water leak
in your home, you may be fortunate in that you only have a frozen pipe, and not
a broken one. In this situation, identify the possible frozen areas of the pipe
and gently heat them up with a hair dryer. If you are lucky the water will begin
to flow again and youíll have avoided a major catastrophe. After the water is
confirmed flowing again through the pipe insulate it well for the short term. At
some point down the road you may want to move the location of the pipe to
prevent it from freezing again.
How to Fix a Frozen Pipe that
If you do have the situation where a frozen pipe breaks, make sure to first shut
off water to the pipe and open the faucet at the far end of the pipe to drain
any residual unfrozen water from it.
Next, carefully inspect the pipe that has frozen and broken to identify all the
areas where it is damaged. Make sure to look for not just cracks, but also
holes, including pin holes, in the pipe. In addition, check the entire length of
pipe where it is exposed to cold temperatures, including if it runs into crawl
spaces, or cold attic areas.
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Once youíve identified the broken
section of copper supply pipe use a hair dryer to warm it up and to get the ice
in the pipe to melt and drain. Once drained, cut out the section of pipe with a
hacksaw or pipe cutter and replace it with an appropriate length. Youíll need a
couple of straight fittings, as well as the length of replacement copper pipe.
In addition, youíll need a propane torch, flux, rag, emery cloth and lead-free
solder to replace the section of pipe.
After cutting out the section of
damaged pipe clean the ends youíll be installing the new pipe to with a rag.
Then lightly rub them with the emery cloth to make them shiny clean. Likewise
use the emery cloth on the replacement length of pipe and the fittings. Then
wipe the fittings and all the ends of the pipe down once again with the rag.
Next apply flux to the replacement pipe ends and the inside sections of the
fittings and hand assemble them altogether. Similarly do the same on the ends of
the pipe where you will install the replacement pipe section. Then install the
replacement pipe section onto the ends of the existing pipe.
Once the new section of pipe has been hand installed, use the propane torch to
melt a bead of solder around all the joints. After flowing a bead of solder
around each joint immediately wipe it down with a moist rag. After soldering all
the joints turn the water back onto the supply line and check for any leaks. If
you were careful in your work you should have no leaks. Lastly wrap the pipe
with foam insulation, followed by batt insulation. In the spring consider
permanently relocating the pipe away from the cold areas of the home, or adding
electrical pipe-heating wire to the sections of the pipe that are exposed to
If you donít feel up to making the repairs yourself, then at least wrap the
broken areas of the pipe with duct tape or electrical tape for a temporary pipe
repair. Then call your plumber to make the permanent repair as described above.
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