Cold basements can cause headaches; an example of the mess they create is frozen water pipes. When water freezes, it expands, leading to a pressure buildup of over 2.000lbf/in2 (pounds-force per square inch. Frozen water pipes are. therefore, a ticking time bomb during those frosty winter days because as the water freezes, it needs space, and if there isn’t more, the pipe ruptures leading to floods. The cost of dealing with floods and repairs can be massive. That is why you should learn how to detect and unfreeze plumbing pipes.
How do you locate a frozen pipe? Start with the pipes that are susceptible to freezing. These include:
• pipes located on an external wall.
• Pipes located under the sink.
• Pipes located near cold air vents
• Pipes located in unheated spaces or cold concrete.
What are the symptoms of frozen pipes?
The obvious sign that your pipe is frozen and not yet burst is when you turn on the faucet during those frigid weather, and no water comes out. or it only tickles. Begin by checking if the water is turned on in the basement. If the water is turned on and there is no leak, then there is a blockage somewhere due to ice.
What to do if a pipe is frozen?
Start by searching for leaks and cracks: Begin by checking near the joints and inspecting the pipe lengthwise. The change in pressure due to freezing water causes raptures at these locations.
• Use a flashlight and dental mirrors to check inaccessible areas and near the wall.
• Once you find the crack, shut off the main valve and call a plumber.
In case the pipe is not yet burst: If there is no crack, proceed to look for the frozen area. How to locate the frozen section in a pipe?
• Take the temperature of the pipe. You can use your hands or an infrared thermometer to gauge which areas are significantly colder than the rest.
• Search for hollowness by tapping with a screwdriver while listening for solidity and hollowness.
• Look for where the pipe runs through cold areas or where the tube appears to bulge or have fissures.
• Once you locate the frozen area, you can use these DIY tricks to unfreeze the pipe. But keep in mind. DIY procedures can be dangerous if not executed well.
So. you’ve located that frozen water pipe? Well, how you thaw the ice depends on where the plumbing pipe is located.
Thawing an exposed water pipe
Open the tap and the faucet that corresponds with the frozen plumbing line. This is so that as the ice melts, water is free to flow, the pressure reduces, and more of the ice melts.
Run an active heat gun or hairdryer back and forth along the frozen section of the pipe. Take care not to heat the pipe unevenly, therefore keep moving and don’t place the heater directly against the pipeline. Use more powerful heaters depending on the pipe material. For PVC, the heater should not produce more than 60 Celsius. Don’t use a blow torch on any pipe whatsoever.
If you don’t want to use a heating gun. you can use electric heat tape. Just wrap it once (no overlaps) around the length of your frozen water pipe, plug it into a power source and turn it on.
The other option is to heat the surrounding air. You can position heat lamps, space heaters, incandescent bulbs, etc. near the frozen pipe and insulate the room to trap hot air inside.
You can also use salt. Add a tablespoon of salat down the drain and let it lower the melting point of the ice slowly. You can also use hot towels. Soak a towel in hot water, ring it then wrap it around the pipe. Replace the towels with freshly soaked and ringed hot ones every 5-10 minutes. Remove cold towels from the pipe.
Thawing a pipe hidden inside a wall
Thawing an exposed frozen pipe is easy, but if the pipe is hidden inside a wall, you have to use the following tricks: Turn up the heat inside the house if the pipe is in the cabinet under the sink. Leave the cabinet door open so that the heat can make it to the wall. Crank the central heating to around 75-80 Fahrenheit.
Fan hot air into the outdoor vents. Place a fan heater near an external vent so the warm air can enter the external vent Use cardboard boxes to trap the hot air inside the vents. Access the frozen section by cutting out a section of the wall. This will allow you to use the procedures of thawing an exposed pipe to unfreeze the pipe.
Heat the wall with an infrared lamp. Infrared lamps direct energy to the wall and pipe without heating the surrounding air or overheating dangerous materials in the surrounding.
In retrospect, there is hope for a frozen but not yet burst pipe. But learning pipe freeze protection tricks will save you the headache of thawing a freezing pipe. These involve heating the basement always when ifs freezing, installing heat cables for pipe freeze protection. etc. But if a mess happens and you end up with frozen pipes, then save the day using the above-mentioned hacks.