You’ve just turned on your faucet to wash your hands and nothing but a trickle is coming out.  After a long day, you try to run a hot bath, but where is the water? One of the earliest signs of frozen pipes is little to no water flow when you turn on your faucet.  After checking the basement to be sure your water is turned on, you may begin to realize that, in fact, your pipes are frozen.

Pipes most susceptible to freezing are those that are exposed to the severe cold, like water supply pipes in unheated areas, like basements or crawl spaces, attics, garages or under kitchen cabinets.  Pipes that run along the exterior, uninsulated walls are also at risk for freezing. It’s important to thaw the pipes as quickly as possible to prevent the pipes from bursting. Here’s how:

  1. Determine which pipe or pipes are frozen.  This can be done by observing frost on frozen pipes that are exposed or locating the pipe based on which faucets aren’t working.
  2. Keep the faucet on.  As you begin to treat the frozen pipes, make sure the faucet stays on.  As the frozen area inside the pipe begins to melt, water will begin to flow again through the frozen area, which will help melt the ice.
  3. Apply heat to the frozen pipe section.  Using an electric heating pad, a hair dryer, or portable space heater, begin to warm the section of the pipe that is frozen.  Towels soaked in hot water, wrapped around the pipe, can also help the thawing process.
  4. Enclosed frozen pipes require different thawing measures.  Raising the heat in the house may be enough to melt the ice blockage in the pipe.  If you know where the pipe is located within the wall, using an infrared lamp can create enough heat to help the pipe defrost.  A more drastic measure is cutting out a section of the drywall if you are sure of the location of the frozen pipe. If the pipes do not thaw out after using this heating process for a while, it may be time to call a professional plumber.

Frozen pipes do not necessarily have to lead to bursting pipes if you’re able to treat the pipes quickly.  Using these tips, you can have running water back in no time, even in the harsh Chicagoland winters.