How Long Does It Take For Pipes To Freeze?

How Long Does It Take For Pipes To Freeze

If you are a homeowner in a region that experiences the seasons, frozen pipes are a very real threat. Besides the winter inconveniences of snow, ice, slick roads, and colds, builder-owners also have to be wary of their pipes freezing. While pipes freezing is a common winter occurrence, many homeowners are left wondering just how long it takes before they are frozen.

It takes 6 hours for pipes to freeze if it is 20 degrees Fahrenheit or below outside. Pipes can freeze sooner at extremely low temperatures, but the outside temperature must stay low for 3-6 hours. Water expands by 9% when it freezes and that can cause your pipes to burst or endure damage.

The closer your water pipes are to exterior walls, the quicker they will freeze. If your water pipes have any leaks, they will allow outside air in which increases the likelihood that they will freeze as well.

Let’s get into how long it takes for pipes to freeze, what it means, and what can be done about it.

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Why Do Pipes Freeze?

The main cause of pipes freezing is drastic drops in temperature. For water pipes, they typically don’t freeze at the standard 32 degrees Fahrenheit freezing point. They can freeze at that temperature, however, but that is usually if there are leaks in the pipes.

Instead, pipes generally freeze after 6 hours of 20 degree Fahrenheit temperatures or below. Another common cause of frozen pipes is a lack of insulation. When pipes are not properly insulated, they are left exposed to the elements, thus freezing more quickly in cold temperatures.

Finally, the other common cause of frozen pipes, believe it or not, is the air conditioner. However, air conditioner causing frozen pipes ties directly into the outdoor temperature. If there is cold weather outside, and you leave your AC on at 60 degrees Fahrenheit or below, your pipes could freeze.

What Happens When Your Pipes Freeze?

Unfortunately, in many cases, frozen pipes leads to a burst pipe. When pipes burst, it is due to the expansion of the frozen water. When water freezes, it expands by 9% as it turns to ice, and the pipes are not able to handle the new pressure.

There are many unwanted consequences of burst pipes, including:

  • Floor and wall water damage
  • Mold
  • Expensive pipe repair
  • Drywall replacement

When pipes burst, water comes rushing out, often damaging the affected rooms. In many cases, wallpaper, wood, flooring, and drywall gets soaked with water which can lead to mold. Because of that, many homeowners have to replace drywall and whatever else took the brunt of the water damage.

Hiring someone to fix your burst pipes costs $500 on average. However, depending on the severity and location of the pipes, it could cost up to $2,000 in pipe repairs.

Location Of The Pipes Makes A Difference

Where are your water pipes located? If they are near a window, drafty door, or exterior wall, they are at a higher risk for freezing. However, that is unavoidable at times, particularly if you purchased your home and did not build it.

The closer water pipes are to the above risky spots, the more sensitive they are to the outdoor temperature. You can always supplement and make up for your pipe’s location by using space heaters or keeping the indoor temperature warmer during cold months.

How To Prevent Your Pipes From Freezing

Considering the costly consequences, homeowners will do all that they can to prevent pipes from freezing. Some of these measures are as simple as running the faucet, whereas others require a little bit of ingenuity.

1. Disconnect All Hoses

If you have garden hoses connected to a water source outside, disconnect them. The connection of the water hose only invites cold air in and is the cause of countless cases of pipes freezing. Not only that, but the faucet holds onto excess water while the hoses is attached, which is a recipe for ice.

2. Close Your Garage Door

Is your garage attached to the house? If so, make sure the garage door is shut. Even when a garage door is shut, garages can get quite cold. Leaving your garage door open, however, will make the garage and the adjacent room in the house freezing.

This is particularly true if you have water pipes located near the garage or the room of the house that it is attached to.

3. Improve Your Insulation

If your pipes are not well insulated, they are at major risk for becoming frozen. Pipes that are not protected by insulation can freeze in as little as 2-3 hours. That is half the time that it takes for pipes to freeze without insulation and leaves you less time to remedy the situation.

Try to think ahead before the cold weather comes and refortify your pipes with new insulation. Polyethylene is a common and effective insulation often used for water pipes, and it is a great choice.

4. Run the Faucet

This frozen pipe prevention is the easiest: run the faucet. Even if you just barely run the faucet to where water is barely coming out, it will help prevent the pipes from freezing. The continual trickle of water throughout the pipes doesn’t give them the opportunity to freeze.

5. Heat the Pipes Up Directly

It takes ingenuity and may sound silly, but a hair dryer can save the day when pipes are about to freeze. Simply turn a faucet on, grab a hair dryer, and literally heat the pipes with it as the water runs. The combination of the running water and the heat from the hair dryer will prevent and minimize expansion within the pipes.

6. Look Out For Leaks

Whenever possible, keep an eye out for leaks in your water pipes. Small leaks may not be a big deal in the spring or summer, but in the fall or winter, they can mean frozen or even burst pipes. Plumbers generally charge $150 to $350 to fix leaks in your water pipes.

How To Fix Pipes that Freeze

There may be occasions where all of your techniques don’t prevent the pipes from freezing. If you’re not someone who is experienced in the DIY world, you may want to pass this project onto a professional. if you decided that you want to do this project yourself then we’ve included some tips below to unfreeze your pipes.

Tips To Unfreeze Pipes

  • Stay informed. Of course, you won’t want to use a blow torch on the pipe (Yes, people do that) or use a kerosene or propane heater or any other type of open flame to thaw out your frozen pipes. While you may think it’s a good idea to set an electric space heater in the area, it’s not safe to do so.
  • Keep your faucet open. During the process of thawing, there will be steam that needs to be released from your pipes. By leaving your faucet open you allow the after to keep moving through the pipe and discharge the run off from the thawing. this will help speed up the process to allow your pipes to get back into working order.
  • Apply heat. To apply heat you can wrap the pipes with an electric heating pad to heat the area. Or you can use a high powered blowdryer as well, whatever method you prefer. If you don’t have an electric heating pad or a decent blow dryer then you can use some towels that you soak in hot water to help. However, keep in mind that this fix is only temporary and that you should not leave the heating pad unattended just in case of a fire. When the pipe has thawed then you will need to turn on the faucets in your home to make sure there are no more frozen pipes.
  • Act quickly. The sooner you act on a broken pipe, the better chance you will have of no complications.

Who Do You Call When Pipes Freeze?

When your pipes freeze and you are not able to remedy the situation, call a plumber. Generally, expect to spend between $150 and $450 for a plumber to come out for frozen pipes. If the pipes burst, however, it could cost $500 to $2,000 for a full repair.

If you are unable to unfreeze your pipes yourself, don’t hesitate to call a plumber. Spending a few hundred to help unfreeze your pipes is something you’ll thank yourself for when you save thousands are burst pipe repairs.

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Summing It Up

With good insulation, pipes take 6 hours to freeze in 20 degrees Fahrenheit temperatures or below. If you do not have proper insulation, however, it could take 2-3 hours at the same temperature for your pipes to freeze.

In cold weather, disconnect the hoses, run the faucet, and close your garage door to mitigate the chance of freezing pipes. Otherwise, try to inspect your pipes for leaks throughout the year to stay on top of it before winter.

If you can’t un-freeze your pipes on your own, enlist the help of a plumber to avoid burst pipes.

Nick Durante

Nick Durante is a professional writer with a primary focus on home improvement. When he is not writing about home improvement or taking on projects around the house, he likes to read and create art. He is always looking towards the newest trends in home improvement.

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