Frozen water pipes aren’t as common as they used to be but still do occur so it is wise to make sure you know what to do and how to detect a frozen pipe should it happen to you. Early detection and remediation can prevent a frozen pipe from bursting which could result in hundreds, or even thousands of pounds worth of damage to your home.
How do you detect a frozen pipe?
The first thing to consider when trying to establish if you have a frozen pipe is to consider the external temperature. Any problems with your water may only be the result of frozen pipes if it is below zero outside, or has been very recently.
The main symptom of a frozen pipe is no water or very low water pressure from one or more taps. If there is no water or very low pressure from to just one or two taps, it is relatively easy to identify the feed pipes to these and hence the area where the pipe is frozen. If there is no water to any taps, it is worth first checking with your neighbours and your water company to make sure there is not a problem with the mains water supply. If the supply is fine in this scenario, you are probably looking at the main water feed coming into the house having frozen.
10 Steps to deal with a frozen pipe
- If you suspect you have a frozen pipe you MUST act immediately to prevent your pipe bursting and causing damage.
- Identify the location of the frozen pipe. Turn on the taps and identify which ones aren’t giving you any water or have a very low pressure. Now inspect the pipes nearest these taps. Look for signs of frost and feel the pipes for cold spots. Remember, there can be more than one frozen section in a single pipe.
- Once you have identified you have a frozen pipe, turn the water off at the mains. This is a good reminder to make sure you know where your mains water stop cock is so that you can do this quickly. If you have a header tank and it has a stop valve, you should shut this as well.
- Before you start to thaw any pipes you should assess the area around where the pipe is frozen. Are there any electrics or wiring in the vicinity that you need to protect from running water when the pipe defrosts? If so, protect with plastic or other waterproof material.
- Open the tap closest to the frozen part of the pipe.
- Starting from the tap side of the frozen area, defrost the area of the pipe that is frozen with a hairdryer, hot water bottle or towels soaked in warm, not boiling water. Do not use a blow lamp. As you defrost the ice you will notice steam and water coming from the tap.
- Keep the heat source on the pipe until the pipe has completely defrosted.
- Check your pipe for any sign of damage or leaking. If you do notice anything you will need to call out an engineer.
- Now turn the mains water back on and run the water from the taps to make sure you are getting full mains pressure.
- Take steps to insulate the pipework in question to prevent it happening again.
What about frozen condensate pipes?
The condensate pipe from your boiler can also freeze in the winter causing your boiler to shut down. For more information read our article on how to deal with and prevent frozen condensate pipes .