Unless you live in the tropics or an area that is warm year-round, you should know how to prevent and then address frozen or burst pipes in your home. Preventing a burst pipe can mean avoiding the mess and cost of cleanup and repairs, and knowing how to properly handle a pipe if it does burst can also mean containing and reducing that hassle and cost. Note a few tips and reminders about frozen and burst pipes so you can take proper care of the plumbing in your home even during the coldest winter weather.

Avoiding frozen pipes

Running a faucet just enough so that it drips does typically keep pipes from bursting because moving water is not likely to freeze. Use a trickle of both hot and cold water so that there is a slight amount of heat running through the pipes, and run a faucet attached to an exterior wall, if possible, as these pipes are often the coldest and most likely to freeze. It's also good to open kitchen and bathroom cabinets, especially at night, so that the room's heat can reach the pipes under and behind those cabinets, reducing the risk of those pipes freezing.

When pipes do freeze

It's typically not recommended that you handle a frozen pipe yourself; since water expands as it freezes, there may be lots of pressure on the connectors of a frozen pipe because of the ice that has formed inside it. A frozen pipe could then burst at any time, even as you start to thaw it, and this could be dangerous and messy. However, if you do want to try to thaw a pipe on your own, use a hairdryer and not a torch of any sort, as the heat of an open flame can cause damage to pipe connectors, and may even damage the pipe metal or plastic itself.

Burst pipes

If a pipe does burst, turn off the water and the power to the home, even if the water from the burst pipe has frozen. That frozen water could melt at any time and, if it comes into contact with electrical wiring, cause an electrical short or even an electrical fire. If the ice does melt, this could also allow water to start flowing through the burst pipe, making even more of a mess. To avoid this, switch off both the power and water and call a plumber who specializes in burst pipes as soon as possible to contain the damage and ensure your home and family are safe.