“Prepare your Pipes for the Next Cold Snap-and what to do if they freeze”


From DC Water:

“Prepare your Pipes for the Next Cold Snap–and what to do if they freeze–

There are steps you can take to help prevent the pipes in your home from freezing or breaking.

Pipes that freeze most frequently are those that are exposed to the outside, such as outdoor hose outlets, water sprinkler lines and water pipes in unheated interior areas such as kitchen cabinets, attics, garages, basements and crawl spaces.

Before cold weather arrives, you may want to follow these recommendations:
• Remove, drain, and store garden hoses.
• Close the inside valves that control the water supply to outside hose attachments (hose bibs).
• Open the outside hose bibs to allow any water in the line to drain out. Keep this valve open so that any water remaining in the pipe can expand without causing the pipe to break.
• You may want to install a pipe sleeve for water pipes that are not insulated. Building supply stores carry these and other supplies for insulating pipes.
• If you go away for an extended time during cold weather, leave the thermostat set above 55 degrees before you leave.
• In severely cold weather, allow cold water to drip from faucets served by exposed pipes. The cold water is still above freezing and will help prevent the pipe from freezing.


If you find you have a frozen pipe, you should immediately take steps to thaw the pipe to keep it from bursting.

• First, locate and shut off the main water supply valve in case a pipe has broken.
• Next, open the faucet so that water will flow through the pipe once the area is melted. This will help melt more ice.
• Then, gently apply heat with a hairdryer around the pipe. Keep all sources of heat away from flammable materials and do not use any open flame devices. Also, do not use devices that will cause the melted ice to boil, as that can also cause pipes to break.
• Call a licensed plumber if you cannot locate the frozen section, if ou are unable to reach it, or if you are unable to thaw it.
• Check for other frozen pipes in your home or business, especially those pipes that are located along an exterior wall or bring the water into the building at the foundation.

For emergency service inside your home, contact a licensed plumber. Call the DC Water 24-hour emergency line at (202) 612-3400 for water emergencies on public property.”

6 Comment

  • Pipe anxiety! It’s the worst. We just had to install a new shut off valve inside of what we previously thought was the freeze “zone” in our basement after the cold snap a couple weeks ago. It’s worth it to lose partial water service to a powder room to be able to sleep at night, though.

  • Question for the PopVille commentariat:

    Any suggestions on how to avoid frozen pipes in a condo building? I’m (perhaps overly) anxious about my unit, which is on the top floor (4 stories). Our (older) building has a few dozen units, so it’s not a reno’d townhouse, but it isn’t a new 150 unit building either.

    Anything to worry about if we keep the unit heated during the day and night? Would letting the faucets drip help?

    • I’m in a small condo building and we have been doing a really slow drip at night and even during the day while at work if the temp does not go above freezing. I would definitely do it. I’ve also been keeping my unit warmer. I feel like a slightly higher water bill and gas bill is worth it if it means it may prevent pipes from freezing. Also, even if your pipe does not burst, if it freezes it might mean no flushing toilet/running water for your shower!

    • gotryit

      It all depends on where your pipes run. If they’re inside of insulation, then they’ll stay reasonably warm with the rest of the house, and you have no need to run the water. Can you find building plans?

    • In a condo building, I think you’d have less risk of pipes freezing, since you’ve got people turning the water on and off at all different hours.
      Just to be on the safe side, though, it wouldn’t hurt to keep a faucet dripping overnight. I guess if your pipes are in the exterior of the building, there’s a risk that the fourth-floor portion could freeze even if the three stories below are OK.

  • “In severely cold weather, allow cold water to drip from faucets served by exposed pipes. The cold water is still above freezing and will help prevent the pipe from freezing.”

    Seems like they should have stated that both hot and cold water faucets should be dripping during extreme cold. Maybe that’s what they meant, but it isn’t very clear. Hot water pipes can freeze too.

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