One of the rough things about winter is that external pipes can sometimes get frozen. This includes garden pipes that haven't been shut off or even pipes in the home where the insulation has fallen away.
The first item of business is to make sure the pipe hasn't cracked. Frozen water expands and if the pipe is cracked you will have to repair it with a splice. In this case, if you're not handy, you might want to call a plumber.
Now, shut off the main water supply or, on a newer home, the nearest shut-off valve. The run all the taps around the frozen pipe to relieve the pressure and to prevent a water mess after the pipes have been thawed.
Cover the area with plastic vapor seal and put a large, canning pot below the frozen area. This is to catch the water if there is a leak in the pipe when it thaws.
There are many ways to thaw a pipe but the easiest way, and the one with the least mess, is a simple hair dryer or a small electric heater propped next to the pipe. If there is no power at the site then a plumber's propane torch used lightly on the pipe works too.
When the pipe has thawed recheck it for leaks. Sometimes these will not show up until all the cold has left
These are some great tips for taking care of frozen pipes. I have some recommendations for avoiding frozen pipes. First, you should talk to your plumber about insulating them, especially if you live in a regularly cold area. Next, you can leave your faucet on with a slow drip on really cold days. It will help keep the water moving through the pipes and prevent freezing.
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