How Do You Repair a Frozen Pipe?

Frozen nozzle pictured outside covered in frost

Frozen Temperatures; Frozen Pipes

The temperatures in Indianapolis, Indiana can frigid during the winter, especially at night. Many homeowners have experienced the aftermath of these cold temperatures that leave them needing frozen pipe repairs and the clean-up of what happens when those pipes burst. 

Can frozen pipes be fixed?

When you realize you have frozen pipes, repairing won’t be the first thing you’ll think about. Your first thought will be, “How long does it take for pipes to unfreeze?”. The answer to that is, “It depends on the weather if you’re going to wait for them to unfreeze on their own.”. 

You won’t know you have frozen pipe repairs until they do that though, but yes, if they do burst, a plumber can repair the pipe. However, depending on how damaged the pipe is, they may have to replace the pipe instead. 

But really, do pipes eventually unfreeze on their own? 

Yes, really, frozen pipes will eventually thaw on their own. But as we just said, it will take time for the pipes to thaw because the temperature has to get above freezing first, and then stay there for a while. While this is taking place, they can actually re-freeze as temperatures begin dropping again. And that is when they are most likely going to burst: during re-freezing. 

Is it OK to let frozen pipes thaw on their own?

You can, it’s a personal decision to wait it out or you can assist in the start of thawing them. If you assist in the thawing process, you’re less likely to need frozen pipe repairs. 

How do you know if a pipe is frozen? 

The first indication you’ll have is no water is coming from the faucet when you turn it on. Or worse, the toilet doesn’t flush after you’ve used it. Then, how can you thaw frozen pipes?  Well, first you need to gather some tools, which include an electric hair dryer, space heater, and heat tape. With these things in hand, and if the thermostat setting is down low, turn it up and open all cabinet doors then follow these steps: 


Depending on the size of your house, this may not be that easy. Start in obvious areas, like a drafty basement, under cabinets, and areas where the exterior walls aren’t insulated. If your home is a pier and beam build, look under the house. When you find the frozen pipe, open the faucet that is closest to that area. Then locate the area of the pipe that is frozen, it will likely be covered in frost. 


Next, with the hair drying on the highest setting, start moving it back and forth over the frozen area.  NEVER use any type of open flame for the thawing process! Yes, that would thaw the pipe faster, but at great risk of catching your home on fire. 

Keep moving the hair dryer back and forth along the frozen area, evenly, never stopping in one area of the pipe. This will help thaw the pipe while minimizing the chance of it rupturing. 

While you’re using the hair dryer, have somebody place the space heater close but not too close (a three-foot distance is recommended) and turn it on. Make sure the heater isn’t near anything flammable.

You can also wrap the pipe with heat tape. Make sure it is evenly wrapped and then plug it in. As the cable in the tape heats up, it will start slowly thawing the pipe. Once the water begins flowing again, unplug the heat tape, heater, and hair dryer to keep from getting shocked. And never leave the heat tape plugged in without being there to watch over it. 

If the pipes are broken, as they thaw, the water will start coming out, and that is when you’ll know you need frozen pipe repairs! How much does it cost to fix a frozen pipe? 

This cost will vary between plumbers, the location, and the size of the busted pipe. After examining where the frozen pipe repair is needed, a plumber may quote you a flat rate for the job. Most plumbers, however, will charge by the hour plus materials. 

Can you do your own frozen pipe repairs? 

In most cases, with some basic tools, yes, a DIY homeowner can do their own frozen pipe repairs. After you’ve thawed the pipe and have seen where the frozen pipe repair is needed, the process will depend on what type of pipe your home has. 

With PVC pipe, you can simply cut out the damaged area with a hacksaw and replace it with a piece of PVC pipe and PVC glue. If the pipes are any type of metal, you’ll need a torch and that is when calling a plumber is recommended. 

How long can pipes be frozen before they burst?

Plumbing pipes aren’t going to freeze and burst immediately. They have to be exposed to below-freezing temperatures for a minimum of 6 hours before they become frozen. However, during that 6-hour period, the water won’t be able to flow once the freezing starts. 

How can you prevent needing frozen pipe repairs? 

As tempting as it may be to turn the thermostat down when you’re not home during the winter, DON’T!  Keep the thermostat set at a decent setting, keep the cabinet doors open, and leave the water at a trickle when you know the temperatures are going get down to or below freezing (32 degrees is the warning temperature). 

Before winter arrives, make sure all exposed pipes are wrapped, and wrap any pipes that are along exterior walls, like under sinks. Wrap the water heater in a blanket made for water heaters too. 

In Conclusion

Never ignore frozen pipes! Once you know you have frozen pipes, even if you’re not going to try to thaw them, make sure the faucets are open so that when they do start to thaw, hopefully, the open faucets will relieve the pressure that freezing creates and causes pipes to burst. 

It’s a good idea to call us this winter when you experience frozen pipe issues. Call us at 317-677-4918 for frozen pipe repair in Indianapolis, IN.