Why Do Frozen Pipes Burst?

Frozen pipes are common in the Michigan winter, when temperatures are often below freezing. The danger about frozen pipes is that they can start leaking or even burst. In this post, we explain what causes them to burst and how you can prevent it.

Water expands as it freezes, which you’re probably familiar with because of the many potholes in Michigan’s roads. However, frozen pipes don’t burst just because of expanding ice; when the ice expands, it pushes water forward toward the closed faucet, which leads to a huge increase in pressure between the ice and the faucet. If that pressure becomes too much for the pipe to handle, the pipe will bulge or burst in that spot.

A burst pipe can be extremely destructive to your home and any nearby valuables. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to prevent a burst pipe this winter:

  1. Prevent frozen pipes in the first place. Insulate any exposed pipes, especially if they are in cooler or unheated areas of your home, like a basement or crawl space. Keep under-sink cabinets open overnight to allow the warm air of the house to reach the pipes. Keep the heat on even when you leave on vacation (keep the thermostat set above 50 degrees).

  2. If a pipe is frozen, turn on the faucet to a slow trickle until you’re able to get it thawed. If you turn on a faucet and very little or no water comes out, the pipe is freezing. Opening the faucet just a little bit will stop the pressure from building up by giving it somewhere to go.

  3. Call a plumber to thaw a frozen pipe ASAP. A plumber has the proper tools and techniques to thaw pipes in a safe way that won’t lead to leaks, burst pipes, or fire. And you don’t want to put it off; not only is a frozen pipe inconvenient (little or no water coming out of your faucet), it’s a dangerous problem that can flood your house if you ignore it for too long.

We’ve been serving the cold Metro Detroit area for over 13 years, so we know what we’re dealing with when it comes to frozen pipes. Call us right away at 586-459-0040 if you suspect a pipe might be frozen in your home!