Frozen Pipes: 5 Pieces of Advice To Avoid Winter Plumbing Problems (Proven Useful)

Brr! It’s getting cold outside.

Frozen pipes

We’re quite sure everybody remembers the icy grip in the UK one year ago. Temperatures plummeting to -15°C marked one of the coldest winters for the past decade. Thinking of the freezing chaos and the life lessons we’ve already learnt, you should definitely consider taking measures against the cold snap and frozen pipes in advance.

Look at the bright side! Enjoy the snow showers by following Bob’s Handyman Services plumbing advice proven useful with time. See below when and how you know your pipes are frozen and our simple (but effective) guidelines to protect them regardless of your home presence or absence.

So, let’s go through them in more detail.

When Do Pipes Freeze?

Shortly and simply: in harsh weather condition (consider temperature alert minimum: around -6°C).
Taking into account more comprehensive approach, pipes freezing temperature depends on:

  • Pipe type and material

Both plastic and copper pipe freezing may occur. However, contemporary plumbing stands behind the fact that plastic pipes are more flexible to extreme weather conditions (can expand and contract easily), which reduces the possibility of pipes bursting in winter.

  • Location and exposure to frigid weather

Unprotected pipework in severe temperatures is at a greater risk of freezing and bursting. Also, if there are cracks in an outside wall, lack of insulation and pipes positioned in chilly windy areas, chances of getting frozen increase. However, homes located in territories less exposed to extremely low temperatures are more vulnerable to freezing when they are left unprotected. No one knows when the ice spell will hit his home.

  • Plumbing pipes warning

If your home is still equipped with the old plumbing pipes, we at Bob’s Handyman Services recommend changing it with new plastic ones.

Irrespectively of your regular home occupation or how long you’ve been away, don’t ignore the signs of frozen pipes. Common symptoms pointing to pipes freezing are an unusual noise coming from inside the pipeline, odd smells, no water or just a trickle coming out of the tap, no water in the toilet tank following a toilet flush, frosted pipe surface and others.

How Long Does It Take For Pipes To Freeze?

Pipes Freezing vs. Unfreezing Time

Pipes freezing time

Pipes unfreezing time

1 night! And it takes only a few minutes frozen pipes to cause thousands of dollars in water damages.

Depending on the scope of the freezing issue, your skills and whether you trust a plumbing professional –  from hours to days.

How To Stop Pipes From Freezing?

When temperatures are going to drop to subzero values, always consider:

So, be prepared – take the below frost protection measures to prevent frozen pipes (if you haven’t done so yet).

Bob’s Handyman Services plumbing professionals recommend following different empty house winter precautions depending on the period of your absence.

  • On your daily round

Turn the heat up! If you have ever asked yourself what temperature to leave in an empty house in the winter to prevent frozen pipes, we suggest to not wait for the zero degrees. Keep a decent indoor temperature when you are outside by setting the thermostat on not less than 12°C. This may affect your household bills, but will further save on water damage repair jobs.

Leave all inside doors open to ensure better ventilation and consistent temperature all around. If your kitchen (bathroom) sink or appliances are located on an external wall of the house, let any cabinet doors open. This will help the warm air circulate freely around the pipes and avoid further kitchen and bathroom sink plumbing issues.

  • When you are on a short-term vacation

Don’t close the taps completely and let the water trickle. That will prevent the pipes from freezing as the water molecules vibrate preventing ice formation.

  • When you are away for the whole winter season

If you are not going to use your property for the whole winter, don’t leave it uninhabited without winterized pipes. First of all, it is always good to have a friend to trust your home with when you are away. Whatever precautions you take, it is always better to have someone check on the property personally from time to time. Also, it’s obligatory to shut off the water supply system and drain the water from the pipes. Despite all precautionary measures, it is still possible to have an accident in your home. That’s why to avoid frozen pipes you have to find the stopcock and make sure it is well closed.

In addition, you could put plumbing antifreeze into your pipes. You may ask: “Isn’t it for the car only?” No, but always use a non – toxic antifreeze for plumbing systems. This is a good option especially when you could not drain the water system completely. The remaining quantity of water could still freeze. When you pour antifreeze in the plumbing system, it mixes with the remaining water and prevents it from freezing.

      [ Examples ]
  • To avoid bathtub or frozen toilet pipes, drain your toilet/bathtub tank and then pour the antifreeze directly.
  • In addition to your bathroom winterizing measures, frozen shower pipes can be avoided in a similar way: just pour the antifreeze liquid in the shower drain.
  • Whatever your plans for the winter, always INSULATE!

Irrespectively of your home usage, take care of the pipes along the attics, underground, external wall and unheated areas. The right method and amount of insulation will prevent not only pipes damages during a cold snap but will also improve the overall energy consumption and will save money on household bills. Most effective methods to reduce the likelihood of  freezing pipes are listed below:

Water line freeze protection with spray or foam pipe insulation

It is a good solution to the problem as it prevents damp and cold air from entering. If there are hard to reach pipes (for instance: heating pipes in the wall), you should first consider the level of difficulty to cover them effectively.

Application of heat tape for pipes

This is an easy-to-use and cheap solution for short and accessible sections of the exposed pipes. All you need to do is wrap it in a spiral all along the pipe. But try to not overlap it as this can cause pipe damage due to overheating.

Winterize your external walls and unheated premises

Take care of the doors and windows in the unheated rooms and make sure they are well closed. Seal leaks and fill out the cracks around the windows and doors near the exposed water pipes.  

External pipe insulation.

During the coldest days, most often the outer pipes are more vulnerable to freezing and bursting.

Basement pumps

Basements are the part of a property that suffers the most when it comes to damp, flooding, and damaged pipes, especially after renovation. That’s why the use of basement bathroom pumps can significantly reduce the risk of damage.

Not recommended:

A widely spread homeowners’ action is to leave the tap running during a long term absence. Based on our competence and almost 10 years background in home improvement and repairs activities, we would not recommend it. Actually, this precaution would lead to plumbing failures and water waste that would cost you a lot.  

Bob’s Handyman Services Recommendation:

For any outer space, make sure the access to water is stopped from the shut-off, the pipes are well drained and all the hoses are disconnected from the taps. It’s reasonable to proceed with water tap insulation before finding the outside tap frozen. An easy and cheap way to do this is by using outside pipe covers which don’t let moisture in and are resistant to freezing temperatures. There is a wide range and cheap products on the market which you can opt for.

If you have already got your pipes winterized, this is a useful tool which allows you to calculate the time to pipes freezing. Test it!

  • Make You Pipes SMART When You Are Absent

During the coldest days, even a prompt human reaction may not prevent losses from water damage if a pipe freeze (and subsequently burst). Installing an intelligent system to the pipework might be either a single effective solution or a nice addition to your winter safety precautions.

Amongst the many perks are the smart control sensors and water controllers. Thanks to them, you can enjoy complete pipe security throughout the whole property. Moreover, with a state-of-art, greener technology you can detect easily any sign of frozen pipes with just one notification on your smartphone instead of being on alert.

In result, your household will save on water and energy consumption in a long-term period, while helping the environment.

Be Smart And Quick – Call In A Professional Plumber!

If you have taken out the above-mentioned precautions and yet you stumble upon frozen pipes, you have to turn the water off from the stopcock and call our reliable plumbing service. Yes, you can start thawing the pipes yourself using some well-known plumbing hacks: wrapping in wet warm towels, blowing with a hairdryer, using electrical heating tape and any other available heating gadget at your home. But always mind that there are a lot of pitfalls in front of you!

      [ Examples ]
  • If you find only one frozen pipe, be cautious and make sure that no other has been dragged in.
  • You should be aware of the overall process of how to thaw frozen pipes. And the most important step is the first one: open the tap slowly and carefully. Then, start the thawing from a point closer to the tap. If you don’t observe this step a huge pressure may unclog inside the pipe and cause pipes bursting.

Don’t feel bad if you are a newbie in DIY plumbing!  It’s always wise to listen to the professionals who may protect your home from frozen pipes and spot any possible issues. The smartest action is to turn to Bob’s Handyman local plumbers before you fall into a trap: pipes bursting. We’ll send you qualified and dedicated professionals who will promptly secure your plumbing system.


Now, it’s your turn. What precautions did you take to prevent frozen pipes?

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