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Old 06.02.2012, 16:11
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Frozen pipes

The cold water to one of our bathrooms is not working. It seems we may have a frozen pipe. Is this going to be the nightmare I'm dreading when the ice thaws? Any advice on preventative measures to minimize any potential damage? I'm going to try and turn off the water to that particular bathroom but not sure if it is possible. Help! I have visions of a water damaged house and huge plumbing bills

Bloody arctic weather, give me 40 degrees C any day.
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Old 06.02.2012, 16:24
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Re: Frozen pipes

Well, it depends where the water froze and pipe broke. Either way this will be bad if I were you I'd try to find where the problem is before it will get warmer if possible to avoid damages...
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Old 06.02.2012, 16:52
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Re: Frozen pipes

Try to find where it is frozen and take a hair dryer to it. Might not be frozen enough to burst the pipe, just to block the pipe. A hairdryer will warm it up a bit more slowly. Has worked for us before. We just tied it around another pipe so it hung there blowing at the pipe to warm it up. Afterwards, you might want to consider insulating the pipe to prevent further problems down the road. HTH
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Old 06.02.2012, 17:10
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Re: Frozen pipes

We're in the same boat, no cold water in an upstairs kitchen since the weekend. I tried in vain to find the location of the frozen pipe, heat up the room and general area of the pipe, no luck. We organized a plumber through our insurance, but he called and said there's nothing he could do short of ripping out the walls so we're just in a wait and see mode. He said plastic pipes have less of a chance of bursting, but we seem to have a mix of plastic and metal so who knows. We're planning on renovating the affected part of the house anyhow, so at least there's a somewhat bright side..
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Old 14.02.2012, 11:10
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Re: Frozen pipes

I have the same issue with my bathroom cold water, ill just have to wait for the thaw, as i spoke with a plumber who said the same as p.discordia. hopefully im home if it is burst...
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Old 14.02.2012, 11:17
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Re: Frozen pipes

@Mel07: I was in the same situation last week, the hot water pipe was frozen and I was really scared said pipe would burst. Yesterday it was working normally, checked the cellar and can't see damage or water anywhere, so I got off lightly.
I just wanted to give you some hope and wish you good luck
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Old 14.02.2012, 13:09
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Re: Frozen pipes

Thanks everyone. I had a plumber here and he gave me the same advice...wait and see. No obvious leaks so far. I've got the water turned off to that bathroom at the moment and will turn it back on today to see if water starts running again. It's a lovely sunny day and the temperatures are inching up. Keeping fingers and toes crossed.
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Old 14.02.2012, 13:12
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Re: Frozen pipes

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The cold water to one of our bathrooms is not working. It seems we may have a frozen pipe. Is this going to be the nightmare I'm dreading when the ice thaws? Any advice on preventative measures to minimize any potential damage? I'm going to try and turn off the water to that particular bathroom but not sure if it is possible. Help! I have visions of a water damaged house and huge plumbing bills

Bloody arctic weather, give me 40 degrees C any day.
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We're in the same boat, no cold water in an upstairs kitchen since the weekend. I tried in vain to find the location of the frozen pipe, heat up the room and general area of the pipe, no luck. We organized a plumber through our insurance, but he called and said there's nothing he could do short of ripping out the walls so we're just in a wait and see mode. He said plastic pipes have less of a chance of bursting, but we seem to have a mix of plastic and metal so who knows. We're planning on renovating the affected part of the house anyhow, so at least there's a somewhat bright side..
How can waterpipes freeze inside the house?

I've lived in some cold places, where winter is always this crucial and I've never heard of waterpipes freeze. Swiss quality I guess.
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Old 14.02.2012, 13:17
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Re: Frozen pipes

I dont see that turning water off is a good idea, most burst pipes are caused due to the increase in pressure when the ice thaws, if everything is turned off there is nowhere for that pressure to go.
I have always (only had frozen pipes twice) left the taps open when this has happened and (touch wood) have never suffered a burst pipe. as it thaws any water pressure bulid up just comes out of the tap.
So, for me it doesnt make sense to turn everything off, i'd open it all up. But, that is only my own opinion.
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Old 14.02.2012, 13:18
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Re: Frozen pipes

Same problem with one of upstairs sink last week, on the east wall. Advice was to put electric heater nearby- and to make sure the tap is left open so the whole lot does not burst when it melts and the pressure is increased. The outside temperatures are much warmer since yesterday, so those problems should soon be over (for a while at least).

We actually were advised to pay a small extra premium on our house insurance to cover all water damage, and it is really worth having for just a few extra francs. Ask your insurance if you are covered, and how much extra it would be.
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Old 14.02.2012, 13:22
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Re: Frozen pipes

Pipes are in a north facing wall cavity. We had some brutal arctic winds here a few nights and the north walls at the back of the house took the brunt of it. Having never experienced -20 temps in my life, I am not the best person to decide whether pipes should be able to withstand this type of onslaught. The house, and I presume the pipes, are 40 years old and from what I am hearing from neighbors, nobody can remember such a brutal winter around here.
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Old 14.02.2012, 13:25
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Re: Frozen pipes

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How can waterpipes freeze inside the house?

I've lived in some cold places, where winter is always this crucial and I've never heard of waterpipes freeze. Swiss quality I guess.
It depends on their location in the house. When you're dealing with a large house converted into flats, for instance, there can be boilers and pipes in crawl spaces and attics (i.e. unheated areas). For us, the small boiler for the kitchen is in a crawl space and on the coldest days recently the hot water wouldn't come through. The rest of the building is warm and cozy as is our flat. The boiler that heats the water in both our bathrooms is in the laundry room so no issues there thankfully!
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Old 14.02.2012, 13:25
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Re: Frozen pipes

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I dont see that turning water off is a good idea, most burst pipes are caused due to the increase in pressure when the ice thaws, if everything is turned off there is nowhere for that pressure to go.
I have always (only had frozen pipes twice) left the taps open when this has happened and (touch wood) have never suffered a burst pipe. as it thaws any water pressure bulid up just comes out of the tap.
So, for me it doesnt make sense to turn everything off, i'd open it all up. But, that is only my own opinion.
Main water to the bathroom is off but taps are open so that any melting ice can run out. Should be OK, no?
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Old 14.02.2012, 13:33
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Re: Frozen pipes

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Main water to the bathroom is off but taps are open so that any melting ice can run out. Should be OK, no?
Only if youve identified where the pipes are frozen, if its frozen within the bathroom between the closed valve and the open tap, you should be ok, but if its frozen the other side of the valve youve shut off any escape. Hopefully from your plumbing set up its obvious to be after the valve, only you can judge.
Hope it all goes well for you.
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Old 14.02.2012, 13:44
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Re: Frozen pipes

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I dont see that turning water off is a good idea, most burst pipes are caused due to the increase in pressure when the ice thaws, if everything is turned off there is nowhere for that pressure to go.
I have always (only had frozen pipes twice) left the taps open when this has happened and (touch wood) have never suffered a burst pipe. as it thaws any water pressure bulid up just comes out of the tap.
So, for me it doesnt make sense to turn everything off, i'd open it all up. But, that is only my own opinion.
You turn off the water supply and open the valve/faucet so that the pressure has somewhere the vent.
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Old 14.02.2012, 13:47
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Re: Frozen pipes

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You turn off the water supply and open the valve/faucet so that the pressure has somewhere the vent.

Only if you have identified that the freeze is the tap/faucet side of the S/O valve!!! Otherwise you are asking for trouble.
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Old 14.02.2012, 13:55
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Yikes....our pipes have frozen, but we are away for a while and did not leave the taps open. Hope I don't come home to a new swimming pool in the basement....
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Old 14.02.2012, 14:25
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Re: Frozen pipes

A bit late for now. But another time do not go away when you have frozen pipes without asking a friend, colleague, neighbour, whatever, to call in regularly to check

Has anybody got a key and can go there and check?
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Old 15.02.2012, 10:14
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Re: Frozen pipes

Mine tap defrosted last night, no leaks, i think i was lucky this time. Im away quite often, so in winter always leave your heating on low, this should prevent frozen pipes, but with the extreme cold of late this did not seem to work.
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Old 15.02.2012, 10:53
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Re: Frozen pipes

I was always led to believe that water pipes sometimes burst because as water freezes it expands, which puts pressure on the pipe (often a seam), which then splits. The damage is, thus, already done, but the leak only becomes apparent when the ice in the pipe start to thaw.

If this is an accurate assessment, then the complete shutting off of the inlet tap may not help. What may be worth considering, is to leave it just half a turn open, to reduce the pressure, but would still allow the water to flow when thawing takes place, providing the outlet tap is left open, but would reduce the amount of leakage from a possibly split pipe. As the easiest point of exit for the water would be the open tap, then the amount leaking from a split pipe, hopefully, would be kept to a minimum.

To answer a previous question, many pipes in older properties, are quite heavy steel and built into solid brick/concrete walls, often with little or no insulated covering, and on the wrong side of wall insulation (traditionally wall insulation was always on the inside of the wall, whereas now it tends to be on the outside, and often both).
In times of extreme cold the solid wall becomes extremely cold, which in turn makes the pipes equally cold, through conduction, and ultimately freezes the water within. Only as the temperature increases does the temperature of the wall and the pipe start to rise.

Modern plumbing now uses aluminium (I think) plastic covered pipes, which are then installed in an insulating sleeve.
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