Communications Office

Arctic Cold Blast Could Lead to Frozen Pipes

As a blast of arctic cold air covers the area, the Water and Sewer Division would like to remind the public about the potential of pipes freezing. Water has a unique property in that it expands as it freezes. This expansion puts tremendous pressure on whatever is containing it, including metal or plastic pipes. No matter the strength of a container, expanding water can cause pipes to break. Protect your pipes from freezing by following the following recommendations.

  • Keep your house temperature at 68 degrees or higher, even if you’re leaving the house for an extended period of time
  • Open cabinet doors below sinks to allow heat from the home to circulate
  • Wrap pipes nearest exterior walls and in crawl spaces with pipe insulation or with heating tape. This can prevent freezing, especially for interior pipes that run along outside walls
  • Close all windows near water pipes
  • Heat your basement and consider weather sealing your windows

Likely places for frozen pipes include against exterior walls or where your water service enters your home through the foundation. Thawing a frozen water pipe quickly is important. However, it is just as important to thaw the frozen pipe correctly. Below are tips to help you get the water flowing and to help avoid a burst pipe and potentially damaging flood at your property. 

  • Keep the faucet open
  • As you treat the frozen pipe and the frozen area begins to melt, water will begin to flow through the frozen area. Running water through the pipe will help melt ice in the pipe
  • Apply heat to the section of pipe using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, an electric hair dryer, a portable space heater (kept away from flammable materials), or by wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water
  • Do not use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove, or other open flame device
  • Apply heat until full water pressure is restored
  • If you are unable to locate the frozen area, if the frozen area is not accessible, or if you cannot thaw the pipe, call a licensed plumber
  • Check all other faucets in your home to find out if you have additional frozen pipes


Dennis Watts

City of Norfolk, Water & Sewer Director