How to Prevent Frozen Pipes During the Cold Ohio Winters

Icicles hanging from a brown pipe

Frozen outdoor pipes are a very real danger in the Cincinnati, OH area, often leading to burst pipes, water damage, and problems with flooding inside and outside your house. When outdoor pipes freeze, the problem can be overlooked during the winter, resulting in foundation water damage, exterior wall cracks, and leaks inside basements or crawlspaces.

Fortunately, you can make changes today that may help you in preventing frozen pipes. Exterior faucets and pipes can be protected to prevent pipes from freezing all season long. However, if you do find yourself with a non-responsive tap and you suspect freezing pipes, we want you to know how to tackle the situation. Read this guide to learn more about spotting and thawing frozen pipes to protect your home from damage.

Here at Thomas & Galbraith Heating, Cooling & Plumbing, we help with everything from wall faucets to ensuring water supply and drainage lines are functional and not frozen. Learn how to prevent frozen pipes and how to thaw a frozen section of pipe.

When You Should Worry About Frozen Pipes

Whenever winter weather drops below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, your indoor and outdoor pipes are at risk of freezing. While it is possible for pipes to freeze and thaw without causing any problems, water freezing within a pipe expands, raises pressure inside of the pipe, and may cause a burst pipe.

Frozen pipes are more common when homeowners encounter prolonged periods of subzero weather, and pipes and water lines exposed to more cold air are likely to freeze. Supply lines that run on the outside of your walls are likely to freeze if not properly winterized, as are pipes within exterior walls. The closer a pipe is to the interior of your home, the less likely it is to freeze. Keep your home heated and pay attention to the weather forecast to learn when to take preventative action.

Tips to Prevent Frozen Pipes

One area especially prone to frozen water pipes is your outdoor garden hose spigot. When the weather dips below freezing, the water inside your hose can freeze, extend into the supply line that runs into your home, burst, and flood. Take these steps to protect outdoor pipes.

Normal Hose Bibs

  1. Remove any garden hoses from the spigot, drain the line, and wipe down the hose. Coil it, and store it in a clean, dry, indoor space, such as a shed or garage. Keeping hoses away from spigots also keeps family members or friends from reattaching them and leaving them to freeze on accident.
  2. Locate the shut off valve on the water supply line that feeds the outdoor faucet and close it. These valves are usually placed along the line a few feet from your spigot, potentially inside your basement or crawlspace behind where the faucet sits. Some homes with secondary irrigation may have a secondary water shut off near the water meter.
  3. Some older faucets have a drainage line near the water shutoff. Place a bucket below the drainage line, and drain any remaining water left in the line.
  4. If you can’t spot a drainage port, open the outside valve again to allow water to drain from the line. This step alleviates pressure, should water freeze in the line.
  5. Protect the bib with an insulative foam cover.

Frost Free Hose Bibs

  1. Remove garden hoses, drain them, and store them as outlined in step one above.
  2. Turn the shut off valve that supplies the hose bib until it is perpendicular to the line. Open the hose bib outdoors to let the rest of the water drain out.

Frost free bibs are common in newer homes and are installed at a slope to use gravity to drain water away from the line. Shutoff valves are also placed further into the home, closer to heat sources, which makes the entire line less likely to freeze. If your home has older hose bibs, think about hiring a plumber to upgrade your hose bibs to frost free varieties to prevent burst pipes and flooding.

Prevent outdoor pipes from freezing by insulating outdoor hose bibs and water supply lines. Pipe insulation contains a slit that makes it easy to slide over water pipes and supply lines, and bib covers shield the spigot from winter weather. Insulate any exterior pipes that run through unheated areas, such as supply lines in basements, attics, or crawlspaces. If pipes sit within exterior walls, open cabinet doors in front of the wall, and leave them that way overnight to give warm air the chance to circulate around the wall. Keep water moving by opening taps to a trickle when the weather forecast projects sub-zero temperatures.

What If Outside Pipes Freeze?

A single frozen pipe can cause thousands of dollars’ worth of damage. Sections impacted by freezing water can swell, crack, or burst, creating major water leaks when the water inside thaws. If leaks go undetected, burst pipe damage can be even worse. Water leaks inside walls can cause rotten wood or building materials and even mold growth. Frozen pipes are a common issue that accounts for up to 20% of property damage claims. Most claims stemming from burst, frozen pipes cause over $10,000 to repair.

How to Thaw Frozen Pipes

When pipes freeze, use these steps to thaw pipes and prevent damage as soon as possible:

Frozen Hose Bibs

  1. Open the outdoor faucet.
  2. Find where the hose bib pipe enters through the exterior wall. Locate the base of the bib on the other side of the wall, most likely in the basement or crawl space, and wrap the area with towels and rags.
  3. Warm the pipe by pouring boiling water onto the towels. Use a hair dryer to warm frozen pipe segments.
  4. Keep an eye on the outdoor faucet and watch for a trickle of water. Continue heating the pipe and bib until water pressure returns to normal.
  5. Winterize the outdoor hose bib using the steps above to prevent future problems.

Frozen Water Supply Lines

  1. Open outdoor faucet.
  2. Wrap the frozen segment of pipe with a heating pad or section of heat tape. Use a hair dryer to heat the frozen segment. Warm the room by turning up the heat or by using a space heater. Never use a propane space heater, charcoal stove, or any open flame to warm a pipe, as these devices can generate dangerous carbon monoxide.
  3. When water stops coming out of the faucet, close the shut off valve again and winterize the pipe and bib using the instructions above.

Frozen Exterior Wall Pipes

  1. Find which water pipes have frozen by opening taps throughout your home. If none of the taps are working, your main water line may be frozen. If some taps are frozen, locate the supply line that provides them with water.
  2. Using a drywall saw, cut a hole in the drywall to access the area around the pipe. Apply heat using heat tape or a heat blanket to thaw the pipe. Leave the pipe exposed to surround it with warm air.
  3. Leave the taps that run from the supply line open, so water can drip as it thaws.
  4. Once water starts flowing from the faucet normally, the water has thawed.
  5. Insulate the pipe to protect it down the road, patch, and repaint the wall.

Professional Assistance for Frozen Pipes

If you suspect that your outdoor pipes have frozen, but you don’t feel up to the job, our team at Thomas & Galbraith Heating, Cooling & Plumbing can help. Our team will diagnose frozen lines, thaw them carefully, and repair leaks or replace burst pipes, so your home stays clean and safe for your family. Contact us today to book your preventive service. We also offer 24/7/365 emergency repairs if you have problems when we are closed.

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