Repairing Frozen or Broken Pipes

If you have never encountered a frozen or broken pipe, then you are extremely lucky.  This is because these problems usually happen at the most inconvenient time and absolutely needs to be repaired.

So you will be facing a terrible headache and very costly service at the very least.  But here are some things that can help you along.

Prevention Tips

You do not have to experience excessively cold weather to have frozen pipes.  It is possible for pipes to freeze even when they are not exposed to the air outside.

If you have a modular home, you may have this problem.  There are some things you can do to avert this type of plumbing emergency:

  • Use foam rubber or fiberglass insulation;
  • Pipes in unheated areas can be wrapped with special heating strips;
  • Even hot water lines can freeze so insulate bot hot and cold water lines;
  • Slightly open a faucet to prevent vulnerable pipes from freezing; and
  • Install a shutoff valve for outside faucets.

Thawing Pipes

frozen pipe

What is the most common sign of a freezing pipe?  You will notice a decrease in water pressure on the line.  This gives you some time to go into action and prevent the pipe from freezing completely and keeping it from bursting.  What should you do?

Turn the water on and leave it on for a while.  By allowing the water to flow, you will reduce the possibility of freezing and allow the frozen obstruction to thaw.

Make sure to inspect the pipes first for signs of leaks.  If there are leaks you have to plug it up first before thawing.

To proceed with the thawing, open more faucets to give the melting ice other outlets.  Be careful when doing the next steps because heating the pipes should be done slowly and the water must not boil.  So work from the faucet side back to the water supply of the frozen pipe.

Wrap rags around the frozen section of the pipe and pour hot water.  The pipe should not be too hot to touch.  If you are working on a plastic pipe, pour very slowly.

Continue to slowly pour hot water to keep the rags warm, but not hot.  You can also use grounded heat strip as an alternative.

If you do not have one, an ordinary hairdryer or space heater concentrated at the frozen section should work just as fine.

Emergency Repairs

As stated earlier, you may need to do some temporary emergency repairs before you can proceed with the thawing.  You have to cut the supply to the affected section of the pipe first using the shutoff valve.

The repair does not have to look good, it just needs to hold off until professional repair becomes available.

Get a piece of rubber or an inner tube and hose clamps.  Wrap the pipe with the rubber and use the clamps to hold it in place.  If you have a garden or radiator hose, you can use it as well in place of the rubber.

You do not have to worry if there is still some dripping as long as it is not very strong.  Subtle drips will also help prevent the pipe from freezing.

Permanent Repairs

repairAlthough it is suggested that permanent repairs be done by professionals, it pays to know the things that have to be done.  Normally pipe clamps would be good enough to do repairs on burst pipes.

However, if the problem is on an elbow, T-joint, or fitting, you would need to do the repair based on the type of pipe installed.

  • Steel Pipes – these pipes are threaded and can be repaired by pipe clamps if they are bursting along the seam. In case you need to replace a section of the pipe, you need threaded couplings and a pipe wrench to do the job.  Since this requires special tools, an alternative would be to use rigid plastic (CPVC) instead.  You have to use transition fittings so that the threaded plastic couplings can be attached to the threaded steel pipe or fittings.  The plastic pipe will now be running between the couplings.
  • Rigid Plastic Pipe – If you have PVC, CPVC, or ABS plastic pipes, repairing them would be easier. You have to use the solvent welding process.  The areas to be joined will be applied with special cement to bring them together. The cement will melt the plastic surfaces allowing them to fuse.  If done correctly there should be no leaks or loss of water pressure.  You will need a tubing cutter or hacksaw to make a straight cut with smooth, bevel edges.

The pipe can then be inserted into the fitting and adjusted to the correct position.  The surface must be cleaned before the primer is brushed on the outside of the pipe and the inside of the fitting.

Push the pipe into the fitting and align to spread the cement.  Allow to set for 30 seconds to achieve a permanent joint.

  • Copper Pipes

clean copper pipe

Cleaning the pipe and fitting surfaces is required.  You will be using a plumbing torch so be very careful.  Melt the solder around the joint to repair it and stop the leak.

Use a pair of pliers to hold on to the pipe because it will become extremely hot.  For new copper pipes and fittings, the ends and insides must be cleaned.

Only a thin layer of lead-free flux should be applied to the outside of the pipe and the inside of the fitting.  Spread the flux by twisting the pips slightly.  Use only a small flame for the propane torch to make it easier to control.

The heat the fitting for a few seconds and start moving the flame around to distribute the heat.  Never drip the solder onto the joint.  The soldered joint should be cleaned while it is hot.  Once cool, text it by allowing the water to run through the system.

This gives you a fairly good idea of the amount of work needed to repair frozen or broken pipes.  If you are not comfortable with any portion of the work, call a licensed professional immediately to get the job done correctly.