Easy fixes for frozen pipes

Frozen pipes can lead to major plumbing issues, but prevention and simple home remedies can keep the water flowing all season long.

Easy fixes for frozen pipes

There’s no water

Identify problems with your water supply

If water isn't coming out of the cold tap at the kitchen sink, there's a problem with your main supply.

  • Check that someone hasn't turned off the stopcock. Ask neighbours if their water is on — the supply may be off for maintenance.
  • Are puddles forming in your front garden? The supply pipe between your house and the stopcock in the street may have burst. Call your water supplier immediately.
  • Have temperatures been exceptionally low recently? If so, your rising main may have frozen.

My pipes have frozen

Thaw your system safely

Has your house been empty for awhile in cold weather? If so, frozen pipes may be the cause of your lack of water. First, find the frozen area.

  • If none of your taps work, the ice is likely to be on the rising main adjacent to an external wall. Look for signs of freezing (ice on the exterior of a pipe) and feel along its length for exceptionally cold sections.
  • Close the main stopcock and fully open any taps near the frozen section of pipe. Use a hot-water bottle or a hair dryer to gently warm the suspect pipe. Don't use any type of extreme heat, such as a heat gun — the steam created could make the pipe explode!

Warning

Don't switch on your central heating or immersion tank to thaw out a frozen pipe. Water tanks may be empty, and you risk damaging heating elements.

Make it last in the cold

  • Beat the freeze by covering vulnerable pipes — those outdoors and in exposed areas — using foam insulation.
  • In cold conditions, run water through outdoor pipes once a day to prevent ice formation.
  • When leaving a house unoccupied, set the central heating to come on for half an hour twice a day. Even leaving a light on in an unheated room can prevent ice formation in pipes.
  • Exercise your stopcock by turning it to and fro a few times every couple of weeks. This will keep it from seizing up. Don't have the stopcock open all the way — reserve a quarter-turn of movement to give you some wiggle room if it does get stuck.
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