Fail to properly winterize your home and you may end up with frozen pipes. You may have heard this warning in the past. Winterizing a home can involve a long list of tasks, from putting away water hoses to inspecting your furnace. But protecting your pipes from a freeze should top that to-do list. Why are frozen pipes such a concern?
When water freezes, it expands. It can do so with such force that the ice will exert extreme pressure on the inner walls of your pipes. Whether they’re made of copper, steel, or PVC plastic, ice can crack your pipes or even break them completely.
After a freeze, you should have your home inspected by a professional plumber, who can identify the signs of a frozen pipe and repair it accordingly. Here’s how to tell if one of your pipes has frozen.
Low Water Stream
If one of your faucets, showerheads, or appliances seems to release less water than usual, a freeze may be to blame. Frozen pipes can interfere with your ability to wash dishes, take showers, or wash your hands. If you notice a low stream of water, there may be blockage in your pipes due to ice that is slowing your water supply. Worse, this may be a sign that some of the water from your pipes is escaping the system before it reaches your faucets or appliances. This means that a cracked or burst pipe is releasing water where it doesn’t belong.
Wet areas of flooring, wall, or ceiling are common signs of a leak inside your walls, which may be due to a frozen pipe. Pay particular attention to wet spots along exterior walls of your house. These areas are particularly prone to freezing because they’re poorly insulated. Attic and basement pipes are also vulnerable to freezing. Moisture in one of these areas may be a sign of a frozen pipe.
This is a more obvious one to diagnose. Check under your sinks, in your basement ceiling, and other areas where exposed pipes are present. Can you see frost on the pipes? This means that the pipe is frozen. If frost has formed on the outside of the pipe, then there is likely ice blockage on the inside of the pipe.
Do you notice foul odors every time you turn on a faucet or approach a drain? If a drain pipe has frozen, ice will block it and limit its internal diameter, which can create a high-pressure air and moisture system. When this happens, sewer odors may have nowhere to go but back up your drains and out, exposing your house to sewage odors.
If a pipe has frozen, you need to act quickly. The pipe must be thawed out and its cracks or holes must be repaired. Frozen sections of pipe may even have to be replaced. As always, you should entrust such serious, intensive plumbing work to a trained professional. If you notice one of the above signs of a frozen pipe, call a plumber right away.