First, it's important to know which pipes are frozen. If your water will not drain, this means your drain pipes are frozen. If no water comes out of the faucet, this means that your supply line pipes are frozen.
What to do: If your sinks, toilets, showers or tubs will not drain, this means that your drain pipes could be frozen. If your drain pipe is frozen, open cabinet doors or cut into your walls or ceilings to allow the heat from your home to get to the pipes. To heat your pipes faster, a hair dryer is a great way to warm them up. Please use the hair dryer with care - if water starts leaking out, the hair dryer can short circuit.
Why it happens: Many times pipes freeze due to finishing off a basement. When the basement was unfinished, the pipes were exposed to the heat of the home. Once the basement is finished, the sheetrock and insulation blocks off the pipes from getting heat from the home. If the pipes freeze, the could cause damage to newly finished basements.
How to prevent it: A simple precaution for preventing frozen drain pipes can be as easy as cutting a 6x9 return air grate in the area to allow warmth into the joyced cavity. Always remember to insulate your pipes from the cold, but not from the heat in the house.
SUPPLY LINE PIPES:
What to do: If your water will not come out of the faucet or shower head, this means that your supply line could be frozen. Your pipes could be burst, so first you must shut your water off at the main. You will want to get heat to your pipes. The best way to heat them is to open cabinets and doors, cut holes in the walls and use fans or hair dryers to warm them up. Again, please use care when working with the hair dryer, if it gets wet, the hair dryer can short circuit. Warming the pipes is important, and the extent of the damage cannot be determined until they are mostly thawed.
Why it happens: Many times pipes freeze due to recently finishing off a basement or a change in insulation. The pipes in your home need to be insulated only from the cold on the outside, but not from the heat on the inside. If your pipes are insulated from the heat inside your home, they have no way of staying warm.
What do do after the pipes are thawed: If after the pipes are thawed, there are non leaks, many times full operation is returned. Sometimes scale and sediment move through the lines because of the glacial-like action of ice, which pushes sediment into blocked pipes. Because of this, ariators and shower heads may need to removed and cleaned for them to work completely.
If a leak develops because of burst pipes from ice, turn the water off again, and call a plumber. It is helpful to know exact location or even cut open walls to identify the exact location of a split pipe.
How to prevent it: If you are worried your supply lines are going to freeze because of past history or evidence to support that, some plumbers may recommend letting run to keep the water flowing - similar to a water tower. Please do not do this! This can be just as dangerous. The water usually cannot go down the pipes fast enough and it can develop layers of ice and plug the pipe, causing an unattended running faucet to overflow the sink. Another way to prevent a freeze is to take care of those leaky faucets. The dripping into the drain can cause an ice buildup and eventually cause a frozen pipe.
Amanda Klecker - Zell Plumbing & Heating