Frozen Water Pipe Precautions

Water is unique in the fact that it expands when it freezes. This puts tremendous pressure on whatever is containing it, including metal and plastic pipes. Pipes that freeze most frequently are those exposed to severe cold, like outdoor hose bibs, and water supply pipes in unheated interior areas like basements and crawl spaces. Property owners are responsible for protecting plumbing within their homes and businesses. The City of Fond du Lac Water Utility offers customers the following winter tips to prevent costly and inconvenient repairs brought about by frozen or ruptured pipes:


  •   Keep basement temperatures above freezing
  •   Eliminate cold drafts -repair broken windows and doors and keep them tightly closed
  •   Insulate outside walls
  •   Seal all air leaks in crawl spaces and basements
  •   Turn off water to outside faucets, remove hoses and drain the pipes
  •   Open the door to utility rooms where pipes are located to allow warm air to circulate
  •   Make frequent use of your water


Be prepared as best you can. If you suspect a frozen pipe, look for a water line coated in frost, or is bulging. Check pipes near cold air vents or concrete walls. Look at the backs of pipes near walls. Feel the temperature of the pipe with your hand. Tap the pipe with a screwdriver handle and listen for a solid, less “hollow” sound. Once found, follow these steps when attempting to thaw a frozen pipe:


  •  Shut water off to the section of frozen plumbing (or the entire house) as the real trouble often occurs after the thaw if the pipe is cracked
  •  If another source is available, soak a towel in hot water and wrap around the pipe
  •  Use a hair dryer, space heater or heat lamp to thaw the pipe. NEVER use a propane torch or any fire source


The cold weather over the past couple weeks has caused pipes to burst in a few vacant homes. If you own a property that is currently vacant, turn the water off at the inlet valve located near the meter and drain pipes down. Contact the Utility to have service disconnected if you expect the property to remain vacant.


We hope not to see a winter like last year, but if extreme conditions develop, follow recommendations issued by your local utilities.