Monday, January 24, 2011

pipes froze

Don't know what to do. Don't know where they froze.


Blogger Stephanie said...

Open all cupboards, put a space heater next to the pipes and start it up slowly. If you can find where they are exposed, you can use a hair dryer too, just heat them gradually. It used to be a regular occurance in our old house. Not fun on a work morning. :(

January 24, 2011 at 6:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To add to Stephanie's comments, be sure to open the faucets so that the water has a place to go. If you have to leave, shut off the water. If a break does occur, water won't come pouring out under pressure and cause more damage.

You want to expose the pipes to warmth. Don't use a flame since this can cause a fire.

Find the faucet closest to the entry into the house (probably laundry?) If water works there, then the freeze is further along in the system. (maybe the kitchen?). The point of doing this is to find out where the freeze/blockage has occurred.

Hope this helps!


January 24, 2011 at 6:29 AM  
Blogger Anne said...

Ditto to everything that Stephanie said. Try to smile about the fact that you own those frozen pipes.

January 24, 2011 at 6:29 AM  
Blogger Victoria said...

does your water come from a well? if so, don't forget about the pipes around it. during our gold snap last year, the pipes inside the house were fine, but there was one tiny pipe in the pumphouse that froze and mucked it all up. we got that thawed out, and we were back in business.
I'm rooting for you!!!

January 24, 2011 at 6:42 AM  
Blogger Dancing shepherdess said...

Pipes burst when they go from frozen to thaw... Do you have baseboard heat? Or, is this the main water supply for the house. You should put a call into a plumber ASAP as they will be very busy.

January 24, 2011 at 6:57 AM  
Blogger Jeremy said...

You can thaw the pipes with a heater or torch, but if you use a torch be careful, you can unsolder the joints or start the insulation on fire. To play it safe I would stick to a hair dryer. Also don't heat the pipes much if they are plastic, it is very easy to stress the pipe and break it.

If the pipes are still frozen when you have to leave the house, SHUT OFF the water service from the water main or the well pump (whichever you have) if you don't, and the pipe breaks, it will flood the house. I had that happen to a friend of mine when they were gone all day. They had 18" of water in the basement when they got home.

Don't worry, this used to happen to my uncle in his farmhouse all the time. It's part of living in an old home in the country. I had the forcemain for my wastewater break one day and I had to dig it up and make the repair through 6' of wet clay, and 1' of wastewater I got to stand in in the hole. All part of owning instead of renting.

If you find the location of the freeze, and post some photos, I can tell you how to fix it from happening (I work as a heating, mechanical / water, wastewater, civil engineer)

Good Luck! It will be fine, don't stress! Its part of the adventure!

January 24, 2011 at 7:01 AM  
Blogger windhaven farm said...

Moby homes are notorious for frozen pipes... even with heat tape and all. We found that by turning up the heat in the house a good bit, finding the furthest back water source (like Eaglescout suggested... basement?) you can figure out where it froze. Also is the day time temps going to be a bit better? Perhaps sunny? That will help to, to get the home and all warmer. Frozen, that's tolerable, busted, that's no fun and a real problem. Do you have water outside? Like the taps for the farm and all? If you have water outside, I'd get that running and make sure you have animal water.

Best of luck, stay calm, just start checking and see what you can do now. Great advice from your gang of friendly peanut gallery!

January 24, 2011 at 7:16 AM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

I used a hairdryer to defrost the hot water coming into the house. I got it going, and thought I would celebrate with a shower..but the shower wouldn't drain, the toilet barely flushes. Is drainage a bigger problem? I called three plumbers this morning and three said they don't drive up north into jackson and the 4th said drainage pipes aren't his priority when it's 25 below.

They want a high of 6 today. I don't know how to drain those pipes. Are they frozen, is the septic full? i hate this.

I turned up the house heat (I cringe at that), the stove has been fired all night (only slept in one-hour intervals), and now I have faucets dripping.

The artesian well always works outside, so the animals always have water. I am going to take the dogs out now and see if the truck will start.

January 24, 2011 at 7:24 AM  
Blogger Jeremy said...

If you let the water trickle overnight, and you have a very old house with a poor foundation, I have heard of ice damming at the exit from the building. I have never heard of it happening in one night however. Basically the place where the sewer line exits the basement wall is where the pipe will freeze up. You could try heating there and see if the wastewater releases. At this moment, you soil stack is probably full. Don't flush or use water on the second story, or it may come out the first story sink and toilet.

I would call a septic hauler and describe the problem, they might be more likely to help you with a sewer line.

Again I've dealt with this before, not the end of the world, but a pain in the ass. I'm 80% sure this is your problem. It is highly unlikely a full septic tank or failed leach field would directly correspond to the coldest night of the year.

January 24, 2011 at 7:41 AM  
Blogger Christine said...

Lots of good advice here. In two places I lived it was always the pipes behind cabinet doors. Whenever it got cold I opened them all up. We used a hair dryer to thaw them out. Do not use any sort of fire like a torch! Every year someone's home burns down around here because they used a torch! You prob. know this but just saying it.

Anyway, I can sympathize with you. Been there, done that :(.

January 24, 2011 at 7:50 AM  
Blogger Kate Mary Betty said...

Blue Diamond Septic (518-767-9322)
has been great for us when we've had similar problems. They're very friendly too. They may be too far from you but might be able to refer you to a septic hauler in your neck of the woods. This too shall pass!

January 24, 2011 at 7:53 AM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

The toilet flushes but the shower will not drain. truck will not start.

the good news. we are heating up to -17.

is it possible the pipes that drain are simply frozen and will thaw on their own, the shower is the farthest drainage pipe from the house... maybe it simply can't unfreeze and needs a 20+ degree day under a warm house to thaw.

I hope so.

January 24, 2011 at 8:08 AM  
Blogger doglady said...

Go into your basement and look for your drain pipe. If it is close to the outside wall and goes near the sill plate your problem could be there. The plumber may have sounded a bit unsympathic but draining waste water isn't as important as incoming water. You have a multitude of options for waste collection until thing get flowing again. Of course if the sinks are backing up that eliminates running the faucets to keep them from catching.

January 24, 2011 at 8:10 AM  
Blogger Liz said...

Ours were frozen this morning too. Ours comes in from the well, below grade, and makes a turn at the back of the basement where it's at ground level (it's a walkout). From experience, we know that's where it tends to freeze up, despite having a spaceheater in that corner. The hairdryer had it cleared in about five minutes. The first time it happened, we didn't have a clue where to it's old hat. Hopefully it works out that way for you too.

January 24, 2011 at 8:25 AM  
Blogger Tracy P said...

Do you have a basement? My parents have the problem that if they crank the woodstove up, the furnace doesn't kick on, and the pipes in the basement freeze. When it gets really cold, they have to turn the furnace on to keep some heat going to those pipes.

January 24, 2011 at 9:03 AM  
Blogger Barb said...

I agree with what Tracy said. We have a wood stove that is our primary heat source and when that is going the furnace doesn't kick in. Our pipes in the basement froze where they enter the house just below the foundation. We put a heat lamp inches away from the pipe and just waited for it to thaw. It worked.

January 24, 2011 at 11:15 AM  
Blogger Sarah said...

Jenna - I'm not sure if this will work for you, but it works for me -
I live in a 200 year old house, where the bathroom is an afterthought. The trap for the shower is too close to the wall and it freezes whenever it gets south of 15*. It was 35* in my bathroom this morning. Indoors.
First - keep any abutting cabinet doors open so air can circulate. If you can get a small, newish space heater and set it to 60* in the bathroom, that's what I do to try to prevent the freezing. Also, if the shower has a glass door, leave it open, or pull back the shower curtain.

Once frozen, I curse soundly for a little while, and then I heat up a whole mess of water to just under boiling and dissolve a whole mess of salt in it. I'm not sure if the salts helps, but it makes me feel better. I then slowly pour it down the trap, stopping every once in a while to let what's there work.

Good luck.

January 24, 2011 at 12:06 PM  
Blogger Zev said...

I second what Sarah said about letting very hot water work on the drains. The added salt makes it freeze at a lower temperature, which gives you more time to work if it gets stuck in the lines. Our copper pipe used to freeze right before the meter where it came into the house, very close to a corner basement wall. We put a sheet of insulation between the pipe and the wall, and used an electric heat tape, and haven't had any freezing problems there since. Also recommend getting a heat gun in the future to thaw out pipes (and for lots of other things.) They're like an industrial-grade hair dryer, much too hot to use on your head, but still not as hot or dangerous as using a torch. Got mine from Harbor Freight for about $8.

January 24, 2011 at 12:28 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...


when my pipes or drains froze it was always those closest to the outside wall or a place that got a cold draft.

If your shower isn't draining, it's possible the water in the trap is frozen. I would do the hot water and salt that has been suggested.

If that doesn't work, look for a nearby cleanout and use a snake to clear it out. if the plug isn't too big this might work.

good luck!

January 24, 2011 at 1:13 PM  
Blogger Stargazer 2 said...


January 24, 2011 at 6:22 PM  

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