The phrase “frozen pipes” gives a lot of people the chills.
Imagine coming in from the cold, dreaming of having a nice, hot and relaxing bath, and what do you find?
No running water.
Welcome to the Middle Ages!
Winter hits particularly hard in the northern states and sub-zero temperature can cause all sorts of problems for the residents, including being barricaded inside their own homes, slick roads, and of course, frozen pipes.
If you’d like to see a graphical breakdown of ways to prevent bathroom pipes from freezing, we got you covered:
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Can Bathroom Pipes Get Frozen?
Water and pipes do not freeze if it is up to 60 degrees outside.
However, when the temperature falls to 32 degree Fahrenheit or even more, even the bathroom pipes inside your home can freeze.
This is one of the commonest complaints when the temperature plummets.
To make matters worse, many frozen pipes also burst, releasing a deluge of water into your house and causing extensive water damage.
There are some bathroom pipes that are more vulnerable to freezing:
Properties With Poor Insulation
Places which do not see extreme cold temperatures, like the southern states, usually may experience frozen pipes if the temperature plummets to freezing degrees unexpectedly.
That’s because the pipes in those places lack proper insulation against the cold and hence they are more likely to burst.
Additionally, people who live in cold climates may also experience frozen bathroom pipes if they also do not have proper insulation in their homes.
Attics, Basements, and Garages
The attic and basement in your home are generally cold since these areas are not used as living spaces.
Bathroom pipes that run through them, or other areas of the house where heating is neglected, are also prone to freezing.
Bathroom pipes and other pipes that run on the exterior walls of your house are exposed to the freezing elements.
They may also not have the right amount of insulation that could protect them from the cold.
How to Know If Your Bathroom Pipes are Frozen
Here are some signs that could mean your bathroom pipes are frozen:
- Your Faucets Won’t Flow: If you turn on the faucet in your washbasin and only a trickle comes out —or no water at all — it may be because your bathroom pipes are frozen.
- Toilets Won’t Flush: If there is no water in your toilet bowl or your toilet won’t release a waterfall when you flush it, it is a good sign that your bathroom pipes have frozen.
- Bulging Water Line: A bulging water line can indicate that water has expanded and frozen into ice. These lines may also be more prone to breaking, so inspect them to see any cracks. They may also be coated in frost. Some pipes like the ones under you sink can be easily seen and if you see frost on them, this is a sign that the water in the pipe has frozen.
- Strange Smells: Another sign of a frozen pipe can be bad odors coming from the drain. Once the water in your bathroom pipe freezes, the pipe becomes blocked and the odors do not have any other way to go than back up.
What to Do if a Pipe Bursts
When water freezes, it expands and can burst your pipe.
When this happens, you need to act very quickly to save your property from the inevitable flood that will wreck your property.
According to the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety, property damage from bursting pipes can cause homeowners an average of $5,000.
So if you walk into your basement to find a geyser has erupted inside your house, the first thing you should do to mitigate the damage is to quickly shut off the main water supply.
This will cut off the water supply to your whole house.
Bear in mind though that all the plumbing fixtures in your house usually come equipped with their own individual shut off valve that will shut off water supply to only that fixture.
So if you know that the problem stems from a single pipe, you do not need to shut off water to the whole house. You can just turn off the valve for that pipe.
However, this method only works if you are only working on pipes that the valve shuts off.
Some pipes in your home may not have a shut-off valve at all, so you may need to turn off the valve to the main water supply.
Once you have shut off the appropriate valve, call the plumber to your house.
Quickly remove as much water as you possibly can using mops, wipers, sponges, towels, and vacuum.
To make sure there is no danger of mildew and mold, run a until then place is completely dry.
Fortunately, your homeowner insurance will likely cover the cost of water damage.
How to Prevent Bathroom Pipes From Freezing
When it comes to bathroom pipes, being proactive is important.
Some of the tips recommended in this section may go against your eco-friendly instincts, and they may get you a bigger energy bill, however, the cost will be nothing compared to a huge repair bill.
- Insulate Your Pipes: According to the IBHS, pipe insulation costs you as little as 50 cents for every foot of pipe. You can use this insulation to cover up your pipes and prevent any future headaches in the from of lost valuables and damaged property.
- Close your Garage Doors: Keep your garage doors closed at all times, especially if you have pipes running through it. This will prevent them from freezing.
- Open the Bathroom Cabinet Doors: Open your bathroom cabinet doors so that the heated air form the bathroom can also warm your plumbing, especially if your sinks have pipes connected to the exterior wall.
- Leave the Water Running: Turn on your faucet a little bit and let the water trickle through. Although it may be against your water conservation values, a small trickle can keep the water running and hence prevent water in the pipes from freezing.
- Flush the Toilet: Flush your toilet every now and then so that your water tanks keep filling, allowing your pipe to stay thawed out. If the toilet line is frozen, isolate it from the other water lines so that the cold vapors from the line do not freeze them as well.
- Turn up the Heat: Turn up the heat in your house as much as you can comfortably stand it. Keep the heating on to at least 55 degree Fahrenheit when you leave your home for school or work so that the pipes stay thawed out. This may result in a higher energy bill but not as much as you will have to pay when your pipes burst.
- Insulate Cold Places: Add insulation to your attic, basement, garage and crawl places. This will do wonders to maintain a high temperature in those spaces. Also caulk all the cracks in your windows, doors, and vents so that cold drafts cannot enter your home.
How to Defrost Bathroom Pipes
If your bathroom pipe gets frozen anyways, there are ways you can thaw them out:
Apply Heat to the Pipe
The first thing you need to do is to turn on the faucet.
This is done so that when the ice in the pipe melts, the water is able to flow out. This will help thaw out more ice in the pipe.
To thaw the ice, you can use a hair dryer to push warm air on the pipe or wrap a heating pad around it.
Do not be tempted to use a blow torch, a propane heater, or any other source of heat with an open flame to accelerate the thawing process as the fire can damage the pipes.
Additionally, if you put fire against a frozen surface, the ice inside will not have enough time to melt and will instead crack due to the heat, potentially breaking your pipe in the process.
Keep applying heat to all sections of the pipe until all the ice melts and full water pressure is restored in the pipes.
If you cannot find the problem pipe or are unable to thaw it, call a professional plumber.
Use Space Heaters
Even with all the precautions, your bathroom pipes can freeze due to a severe cold spell.
If you live in such a place, it is a good idea to supplement your home’s heat, with a space heater in the bathroom.
Although it is not generally advisable to leave a space heater in the bathroom unattended, if you really need it to keep your pipes thawed, we recommend using an outlet with a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI).
Also, do not use an extension cord to plug it the heater in.
There are plenty of space heaters available in the market for less than $100 that work excellently to heat up a room.
If you live in areas where winter always brings frost, you should know that your bathroom pipes are especially vulnerable.
With just a little precaution, you can prevent ice from forming in your pipes and breaking them.
If your pipes become frozen anyway, no need to panic. Just follow the tips above and everything will turn out fine.