Print Back to top
News Article

Tips to prevent (and thaw) frozen water pipes in your home

Do you know where your home’s water shut-off valve is located?
Do you know where your home’s water shut-off valve is located? Photo credit: iStock.

The same natural forces that trigger cold-weather breaks in Denver Water’s water delivery mains can cause pipes to burst in your own home.

Heed these tips to avoid expensive and wasteful water leaks this winter. 

Before cold weather hits:

  • Learn the location of your home’s water shut-off valve. If a pipe breaks, you’ll need to shut off the water to your house to minimize damage. In most single-family homes, the valve is in the basement or crawl space, on a wall facing the street.
  • Make sure everyone in your household knows how to shut off the water.
  • Insulate water pipes that may be vulnerable to the cold, such as those along exterior walls and in unheated basements.

During a deep freeze: 

  • Keep open cabinet doors leading to exposed pipes (such as access doors for sinks), so that household air can warm them.
  • If you have an attached garage, keep its doors shut. Occasionally, plumbing is routed through this unheated space, leaving it vulnerable to winter's worst.
  • Crack a faucet farthest from the place where your water enters the house. A very slow drip will keep water molecules moving, reducing the chance that pipes will freeze. Place a bucket underneath the faucet so the water can be saved for other household uses.
  • Keep your thermostat set above 65 degrees when leaving your house or business for several days.

If you think a pipe is frozen, don’t wait for nature to take its course:

  • Thaw the pipe as soon as possible or call a plumber for help.
  • If you thaw it yourself, shut off the water or test the shut-off valve. You don’t want water suddenly gushing from the pipe when it thaws.
  • When thawing, slower is better. Pipes warmed too fast may break. A hair dryer pointed at the frozen area of the pipe is appropriate. A blow torch is not.

Subscribe to TAP to get a free, weekly email filled with water news and water-saving tips. (Scroll down to put your email in the light blue sign-up bar.)