This is a winter nightmare so many homeowners have—water stops at one or more taps because of a frozen pipe. It often occurs in older homes with lower amounts of insulation, but even new homes aren’t immune to it.

Although frozen pipes are major plumbing problems, they don’t have to be a long-term one. Follow our advice and you should soon have water flowing again, as well as a plan for avoiding frozen pipes in the future.

First, don’t try any homebrew heating solution

We understand that one of the first impulses you may have to deal with anything that’s frozen is to try to heat it up. You can put frozen food in the microwave for a fast, if not ideal, fix. You can’t do that with frozen pipes, but you may try to use a hairdryer or space heaters to thaw them out. This is rarely effective, and it may result in pipe burst because melting the ice in a pipe increases the internal pressure.

Shut off the water to the house

Go to the water meter, which is usually housed in the basement. You’ll find the shut-off valve for water to the house. Turn it off—it’s best to briefly go without water to avoid potential flooding that can result from frozen pipes.

Drain the frozen pipeline at the tap

Pressure inside frozen pipes is the main cause of pipes bursting. (No, it isn’t that ice expands inside the pipe, which is what most people think.) To alleviate pressure inside the frozen pipe while trying to solve the problem, open up any taps connected to the pipe. Let the remaining water inside flow out completely, then leave the tap open.

Call a professional plumber

At this point, you’ll probably be looking for some type of solution you can do on your own, but we don’t recommend it. If you call a Frederick, MD plumber who is licensed, trained, and equipped with the best tools, it won’t take long to fix frozen pipes. Plumbers not only have techniques to safely thaw pipes, but can also track other frozen pipe issues in your house you may not be aware of. Frozen pipes are tricky and can pop up in unusual places. A professional plumber can tell if your frozen pipe is an isolated problem or not.

Take preventive steps

Okay, the pipes are unfrozen and you’ve turned the water back on. Everything is back to normal. But what if the frozen pipes come back? There’s still plenty of cold weather left. We recommend you work with the plumber to put preventive measures in place. The most important preventive step is to insulate exposed pipes. Plumbers can cut special sleeves to fit the pipes, as well as attach heat strips. There are a few other basic precautions to take: don’t shut the home heating system off entirely when you’re away (keep the thermostat around 58°F), let water drip overnight from faucets that are often used, and detach outdoor hoses from hose bibs so the water in the hose doesn’t freeze and enter the pipe.

For any emergency plumbing need, call Tuckers Air Conditioning, Heating & Plumbing. Serving Washington D.C., Montgomery & Frederick Counties.