In Colorado’s cold winter climate, the threat of frozen pipes is a very real and constant concern. As the colder months draw nearer, it is imperative to make sure that your plumbing and all your water pipes are working properly, in order to minimize the risk of damage from this extremely costly concern.

The problem is based on the fact that, when water is left sitting in pipes over the winter, it gets colder and eventually freezes. When that happens it expands as well, putting a lot of pressure on the pipes and often caused them to burst.

The result is pretty self-explanatory: a lot of costly water damage to your house.

Pipes in unheated areas of the house, those that are located in exterior walls, and any outside the house or towards the exterior are far more prone to freezing. The best prevention, of course, is to avoid damage in the first place, but this is not always possible. If your pipes do end up freezing, it is best to be vigilant and recognize the symptoms as soon as possible to prevent extreme damage.

Signs and Symptoms of Frozen Pipes

As soon as the temperature gets even remotely close to 32 Fahrenheit, you should be on the lookout for frozen pipes. The colder it gets, the more chances there are for your pipes to be frozen, especially if not well insulated.

Some quick ways to diagnose frozen pipes are:

Frost on the pipe: This is a surefire diagnosis because frost on the pipe can indicate only one thing: the water in the pipe is frozen. Frost tends to accumulate on the exterior of pipes slowly, which can help you identify where water has started to freeze before the problem becomes widespread. This will also help you determine where to focus your efforts when it comes time to treat the frozen pipe.

No water comes out of the pipe: If there is no water coming out of the faucet when you turn it on, then something is wrong. In cold weather, a reasonable assumption would be that the pipe is frozen and needs to be addressed immediately.

Prevention starts with an understanding of how water flows through your plumbing. As long as water is moving, it is less likely to free. With that in mind, leaving your faucets slightly open is a good way to avoid frozen pipes in situations where you are at high risk (such as when your heat goes out in the winter). By leaving your faucets slightly open and allowing a slight stream of water to pass through, you lessen the risk of water freezing because flowing water is less likely to freeze. What this also ends up achieving is that water passing might end up thawing the frozen water in certain pipes as well.

Dealing with Frozen Pipes

The faster you act, the better your result will be.

It is imperative that you aim to thaw the pipe as soon as possible because a frozen pipe can end up bursting and cause a lot of potential water damage to your house.

Hair dryer: This nifty tool can do more than help make your hair manageable. Use a hair dryer or a heat gun to thaw the parts of the pipe that are frozen, especially those that have frost on them.

Heat cable: Heat cable is available at electrical supply stores and many home improvement stores, and is a product that is wrapped around a frozen pipe and plugged into an electrical outlet. All you have to do is apply it to the area that needs to be thawed, plug it in, and let the cable slowly thaw out the pipe. Heat cable can be expensive, but is useful for preventing frozen pipes as well in especially cold climates.

Heat the area around the pipes: Interior pipes often freeze inside cabinets and walls where there is limited air flow around them to keep them warm. Use heat lamps or other heat sources or try insulating the area to thaw the pipes without actually directly touching them.

Salt: This is a nifty trick for dealing with a frozen drain pipe, as adding about a tablespoon of salt to a frozen drain lowers the freezing point of the ice and will make it melt. That said, in the case of a frozen drain, you should never pour hot or boiling water down it as that may cause the pipe to immediately burst. The salt will work its way through and gently unfreeze the blocked sink.

Professional help: Sometimes when pipes are in hard to reach areas, or you’ve tried a few DIY methods with no success, you have no choice but to call in the pros. Frozen pipes call for an immediate solution, so if the pipes you’re dealing with are within walls or the water just will not thaw, calling a professional plumber in is the wisest thing for you to do.

Frozen pipes can end up causing a lot of costly damage to your house if not treated carefully and as quickly as is possible. It is better for you to seek help from a professional as soon as possible to get a full diagnosis of the problem, as well as a means for solving it.