What Causes Pipes To Burst When They Freeze?

burst copper water pipe due to frost

Keep an eye on your water pipes during winter. Exposed sections are particularly vulnerable to dropping temperatures. One of these days, you may see them freeze up. They may develop cracks and leaks. In extreme cases, the frozen pipes may even burst and push out a large amount of water. You will have to call professional plumbers for emergency plumbing repairs. If you don’t want to experience these kinds of disruptive plumbing issues in your household, be more proactive. Understand why this happens and what you can do to prevent it. Read on to find out what causes pipes to burst when they freeze.

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Why Do Pipes Burst After Freezing?

Liquid water turns into solid ice at the freezing point of 0 °C or 32 °F. The transformation comes with a peculiar phenomenon: water gradually takes up more space as it freezes. The molecular expansion makes ice less dense than its liquid form. That is why icebergs float in the oceans. In homes, however, we are more concerned about how the expanding ice affects your plumbing system. The internal pressure may be enough to damage the pipe walls and make them burst.

The likelihood of burst pipes depends on the regional climate. Do you live in a place with mild temperatures throughout the year? If so, you are unlikely to run into this problem. Does your area routinely approach the freezing point during the cold months? Then you have a higher risk. Consider pipe placement as well. Exterior pipes are more susceptible, but uninsulated and unheated interior pipes are also in danger. Does your family love to take vacations during winter? Protect the pipes before you leave for peace of mind.


How to Prevent Frozen Pipes in the Winter

Begin this project in the fall before it gets too cold. First, identify the most vulnerable sections of your plumbing system. Which pipes run outdoors? Do you have a swimming pool, a water fountain, or a sprinkler system? Drain the water from the supply lines of these water features. If the pipes are empty, nothing will expand inside them. It is a simple yet effective solution. It is also more eco-friendly than using toxic anti-freeze products. Your pets and plants will be safe. If you have outdoor hoses, drain the water, and store them indoors.

Indoor Plumbing Pipes

Pipes running indoors can still freeze if they get too cold. That’s why you should evaluate the level of insulation in sections like the attic, basement, and crawlspaces. Are these old and worn? Are they still providing adequate performance? If not, add new insulation to prevent heat from escaping and regulate the temperature inside the pipes. It should also make the home more comfortable in the winter and bring down your energy costs.

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Don’t Forget About Water Pipes In Unheated Areas

Which parts of the home are unheated? In many homes, the garage, kitchen, and bathroom are excluded from the plan. Protect the pipes with insulation. You can use special products such as pipe sleeves, heat tapes, or similar materials. Ask your trusted plumber for the most suitable solutions in every situation. If you still discover pipe damage due to expansion despite these interventions, you may need to relocate these pipes to a sheltered area for greater protection.

Your garage may have a water supply line for ease of cleaning. If so, you should keep the garage doors closed to block heat from escaping. As for the pipes under the kitchen and bathroom sinks, you can open the cabinets to let warm air circulate around them. Just make sure that there are no harmful cleaners and other chemicals within reach of children.

Let The Water Drip

image of tap dripping to prevent frozen water pipe

Let water drip from faucets. It will waste a bit of water but it can prevent water from freezing inside the pipes. The constant movement of the liquid, even if slow, is enough to avoid the interior temperature from dropping too much. Exposed pipes will be safe from the chilly air.

As for your heating system, consider keeping the thermostat setting constant around the clock. Most homes reduce the temperature at night to conserve energy, but it can lead to frozen pipes overnight. Plumbing repairs may offset any energy savings. You should also leave the heater on while you’re away from home. Don’t let it drop lower than 55 °F.

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How to Thaw Frozen Pipes Properly

Are you already seeing signs of ice on your pipes? Perhaps the exterior has frost, but otherwise intact. You still have time to thaw. Open your faucets to allow water to trickle out. The heat in running water will help melt the ice. You can hasten the process by applying external heat to the frozen section using a heating pad, a hair dryer, a space heater, or hot towels. Avoid any dangerous heat sources such as charcoal stoves, blowtorches, candles, and propane heaters. Keep it going until the water flows normally from your faucets. That means you restored the water pressure to the correct level.

The frozen area is not always obvious or accessible. You may thaw some sections without seeing much change in the water pressure. Some faucets may straighten up while others remain problematic. Check all the water fixtures in your home to gauge the flow, including the showers and baths. Perhaps the problem lies in other parts of the plumbing system. Also, know where your water shutoff valves are. Call a licensed plumber for assistance. Experts have the tools, knowledge, and experience to solve related problems fast. Your home will be back to normal in no time.



Prepare your home for the winter. Don’t just stop at gutter cleaning, wall insulation, and furnace maintenance. Check the pipes, too. They could freeze and burst when you least expect it. Insulate exposed sections to reduce their vulnerability. Follow the steps mentioned above to prevent the worst. Thaw the pipes whenever necessary, and do it safely with the proper tools. If this feels overwhelming, get the help of a licensed professional for guaranteed results. Experienced plumbers know exactly which products to use in every situation. They can also seal existing leaks and repair problematic fixtures around the home.

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Call Robinson Plumbing For Superior Plumbing Services

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Contact Robinson Plumbing, one of the most trusted plumbing companies in the Lehigh Valley, for reliable plumbing services. We offer various plumbing services ranging from frozen pipe repair, drain clogs, water heater replacements, toilet repairs, water leaks, and more. We always give a wide range of solutions when possible for any plumbing repairs. This allows you to choose the best options for your home and budget.

Find yourself dealing with an unexpected plumbing problem in the middle of the night? No worries! You can count on the expert plumbers at Robinson Plumbing to take care of you. We offer reliable 24-hour emergency plumbing services. You can count on us to get the job done quickly and correctly and, best of all, at an affordable price.

We proudly offer the most affordable and best plumbing services in the Lehigh Valley area. Our plumbers all have the proper licenses and expertise to ensure your satisfaction. All of our work comes with a guarantee. Contact Robinson Plumbing today and schedule your free estimate.

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