What To Do When Pipes Freeze
Homeownership Frozen Pipes

What To Do When Pipes Freeze and How to Thaw Them Yourself

January 18, 2024 at 2:25 PM PST

Winter conditions can be brutal, so it is important to be prepared. It is especially important to know what to do when pipes freeze. This is more than a minor inconvenience because it can cause all the water in the home or space to be inaccessible, or worse, it can require expensive repairs for potential damage caused by pipes bursting. American Red Cross explained that water expands when it freezes, which exposes the pipes to immense pressure. This can lead to the pipes bursting no matter their strength. Luckily, there are multiple options of what to do when pipes freeze, as well as preventative measures.

The Most Common Causes of Frozen Pipes

Before diving into what to do when the pipes freeze, here are some of the potential causes. Normally, it is a part of the extremes that come with the winter season, but there are other factors to be aware of that can lead to freezing occurring.

  • Cold weather: Pipes exposed to very cold temperatures, usually below freezing (32°F/0°C), can cause the water inside of them to freeze. Pipes running along exterior walls or in unheated areas like attics, crawl spaces and garages are especially vulnerable.
  • Poor insulation: Pipes that aren’t properly insulated with materials like pipe insulation or heating cables are more likely to freeze in cold weather. Insulation helps moderate pipe temperature. This is common in older homes.
  • Drafts: Cold air currents from outside or unheated areas around pipes can quicken the freezing process. Drafts remove heat from pipes.
  • Thermostat setting: If the thermostat is lowered substantially in cold weather, especially in vacation homes left unattended, freezing pipes are much more likely. Keeping the temperature at least 55°F is recommended.

Preventing exposed pipes from freezing in winter and maintaining adequate insulation and indoor temperatures are the best protections against frozen pipe problems. This will save so much time and effort in the long run.

Recommended Measures for Preventing Freezing Pipes

While dealing with frozen pipes is certainly a headache, there are worthwhile measures you can take to prevent it from happening at all.

  • Turn on the faucet connected to the frozen pipe and let the water trickle. This helps relieve pressure in the pipe and can help melt ice blockages. Consider allowing a thin stream of water to run overnight to keep water moving in pipes if below-freezing temps are expected.
  • Open cabinet doors below sinks to allow heat to reach pipes.
  • Keep indoor temperatures warm enough to prevent pipes from reaching the freezing point. It should be 55° Fahrenheit or higher.
  • Check pipes in unheated interior rooms like basements, attics or garages for freezing. These tend to be more vulnerable.
  • Wrap pipes that are prone to freezing with pipe insulation or heating tape. This helps prevent future freezing.

What To Do When the Pipes Have Already Frozen

There are ways you can solve freezing pipes on your own before having to consult a plumber. However, call a plumber as soon as possible if the attempts to unthaw the pipes do not work.

  • Open the faucet connected to the pipe.
  • Use a hairdryer on the low/warm setting to gently heat the section of frozen pipe.
    Heating the pipe too rapidly can cause it to burst. American Red Cross advises you can also use a portable space heater or towel soaked in hot water to thaw the pipe. However, stay away from flammable materials and do not use any open flame devices.
  • If a pipe has already burst, turn off the main water valve immediately. This will minimize water damage.
  • Check other faucets in the home or space for freezing.

Calling a plumber is a good idea if you cannot locate the frozen section or cannot thaw the pipe yourself. Acting quickly is key to minimizing damage.



Home is a safe place where relationships flourish and the cornerstone of neighborhoods. We believe it’s the setting that surrounds your phenomenal story.



Find us on social for more home inspiration where culture, personal style, and sophisticated shopping intersect to help you create a home where you love to live.