When your pipes freeze, act fast. Knowing what to do before the plumber arrives can reduce the chance of burst pipes and extensive, expensive plumbing damage. Look for clues at the faucets, the thermometer and the pipes themselves.
Check the Thermometer
If the outdoor thermometer hasn't reached the freezing point, 32 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, neither has your home -- and its pipes aren't frozen. Prepare water pipes for the cold by wrapping them with heat tape or insulation at least a couple of weeks ahead of winter's chill.
The Faucet Flush
Open all faucets, and if you see even a trickle, let the water run. If the pipes are frozen, the running water helps thaw the ice. Increased water flow can take several minutes -- be patient. Check the pipes for leaks.
Icy Pipe Inspection
If the pipes appear frosty on the outside, they're likely frozen solid on the inside. Turn off the main water-supply valve, but leave the faucets open to accommodate ice expansion. Keep all interior doors and sink cabinetry open to increase heat circulation until the problem is fixed -- and then, for good measure, during extremely cold spells.
Always use a to thaw a frozen pipe. Improper heating procedures, such as using an open flame, can burst pipes, cause a fire or result in electrical shock, warns the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services. If you think the pipe is damaged, call a plumber.