Can your PVC pipes freeze? Can PVC pipes burst? What should you do if you have frozen PVC pipes?
In this guide you will learn:
- How and when PVC pipes freeze.
- Common problems with PVC pipes.
- Safe ways to thaw your frozen PVC pipes.
Do PVC Pipes Freeze?
The answer to this question is yes, PVC pipes are at risk of freezing during sufficiently cold weather. The reasons why this happens will be discussed later in this article.
Will PVC Pipes Burst When Frozen?
PVC pipes respond differently to the cold than other types of pipes. Rather than bursting in the way a copper pipe would burst, a PVC pipe is more likely to crack and split. PVC is quite a brittle material that struggles to contract and expand when dealing with the cold.
As such, if water freezes within the pipe, pressure will begin to build up. The buildup in pressure is primarily caused by water being trapped by the frozen section and having nowhere to go. If left untreated, this pressure can lead to the pipes cracking.
Another thing to note is that underground pipes are also at risk of freezing. While the water within may be somewhat insulated by the earth, the soil is still a major issue. If soil freezes and thaws, the soil may move which could cause the PVC pipes to break.
How Cold Does It Have To Be For PVC Pipes To Freeze?
Similar to copper pipes, PVC pipes are at risk of freezing when temperatures drop below 20 degrees Fahrenheit. This can be managed by properly insulating your pipes. We will discuss various methods of insulation later in this article.
PVC vs PEX
There are several differences between PVC and PEX pipes that affect how they will respond to cold weather.
Before we get into the differences, we will give you a brief description of both.
PVC pipes are made from Polyvinyl Chloride. PVC pipes are also affordable and last a long time (up to 70 years if properly maintained). PVC pipes are also easier to recycle than PEX pipes.
However, PVC pipes are vulnerable to UV light, such as from the sun. Long periods of exposure can cause the pipes to become brittle, making these pipes best suited for underground and indoor uses.
PEX pipes, on the other hand, are made of Cross-Linked Polyethylene. While slightly more expensive than PVC pipes, they are more suitable for drinking water.
Regarding how they interact with cold weather, some of the differences include:
- PEX can handle a broader range of temperatures: PVC pipes are more likely to freeze and crack when temperatures drop than PEX pipes. As well as this, they are also more resistant to hot water. During a cold snap, PEX can resist the cold better than PVC can.
- PEX can bend more: PEX pipes can bend more than PVC pipes, making them easier to install and less likely to leak. This is because they have fewer connection points from which water can escape. Due to this flexibility, PEX can handle the cold better than PVC.
With all this in mind, PEX is considered by many to be more resistant to the cold than PVC.
Common Issues With Frozen PVC Pipes
Having your pipes freeze on you is a big problem. Some of the common issues with frozen PVC pipes include:
- No Water: This is the first problem you will notice if you have frozen pipes. Having low or no water coming into your home can be frustrating at best, as it makes even the most basic of tasks (such as having a shower) next to impossible. It may also cost you a lot of money if you have to keep buying bottled water to stay hydrated.
- Water Damage: Even a small amount of water can cause a surprising amount of damage. Water can quickly destroy electronics, furniture, and carpets. This damage can be expensive to repair and may require the assistance of professionals.
- Damage to structures: This is one of the most worrying issues that can come from a frozen pipe. If your frozen PVC pipes leak or crack, the water could rot away at vital supports for your house. Damage to the structures and foundations of the home is dangerous and needs to be dealt with by a professional as soon as possible.
- Mold Growth: Leaking water from frozen PVC pipes can encourage mold growth. Exposure to mold growth can cause a variety of health issues, including throat and eye irritation, wheezing, and coughing.
- Costly Replacements: Finally, replacing damaged PVC pipes can be expensive. While PVC pipes themselves are not costly, getting a qualified plumber in to do the job can cost quite a bit.
How To Safely Unfreeze Frozen PVC Pipes
Frozen PVC pipes present a sizable risk to your home. As such, knowing how to safely thaw them is of paramount importance. The steps you need to take to safely thaw out your PVC pipes are:
1: Know the signs
Several signs may suggest your pipes are frozen. These include:
- No water coming out of your pipes is an obvious sign that your pipes are frozen. A freeze in your pipes makes it impossible for water to get to your taps.
- Strange smells coming from your drain. If water struggles to flow away, it may become stagnant and begin to smell.
- Noisy pipesare further evidence that your pipes may be frozen. If your pipes are making any noise, particularly a gurgling noise, that could be caused by increased pressure on the pipes – a clear sign of freezing.
- Another clear sign is if there is frost on your pipes. If it is cold enough for frost to form on your pipes, that means it is cold enough for the water inside to freeze.
These tips should help you effectively locate any frozen pipes.
2: Prepare to thaw
Before you can start thawing a frozen pipe, you must prepare the area you will be working. Firstly, turn off your water supply. If you thaw out the frozen water and your water supply is on, it could gush out quickly. As well as this, have a mop, bucket, and plenty of towels on hand to clean up any water that comes from the thawing pipes.
3: Thawing your pipes
Once you have prepared the area, there are a few ways to thaw PVC pipes:
- Hairdryer: A simple hairdryer is a great way to start thawing a frozen pipe. Just point the hairdryer at the frozen pipe to thaw the pipe.
- Heat Lamp: A heat lamp is another way to help thaw pipes. The heat from the lamp can thaw the ice within the pipe quickly. Make sure that the lamp does not come in contact with any water that comes from the thawing pipe.
- Hot Towels: Setting hot towels directly onto a frozen pipe can unfreeze it, while also absorbing some of the runoff.
How To Keep PVC Plastic Pipes From Freezing
Thankfully, there are many ways to prevent PVC pipes from freezing. Some ideas on how to prevent this from happening include:
- Insulate Pipes: The simplest way to prevent PVC pipes from freezing is to thoroughly insulate them. There are a variety of ways this can be accomplished.
- Firstly, foam pipe insulation is the simplest way of preventing the cold from getting in. This layer of foam can keep water up to 4 degrees hotter than it otherwise would be.
- Another option is heating tape. There is some discussion about whether heating tape should be used with PVC pipes. While there is some risk of damaging your pipes with heat tape, this can be reduced by using self-regulating heat tape, which manages the heat along the tape to prevent damage.
- Opening the faucet: Opening the faucet is another way to prevent your PVC pipes from freezing. Running water is much harder to freeze than stationary water. Even just a trickle can prevent your pipes from freezing.
- Adjust the thermostat: Turning the thermostat up throughout your house can also help avoid freezing. Consistent temperatures throughout the house make it difficult for water to freeze, keeping your pipes safe.
- Seal leaks: Cracks and openings in your PVC pipes dramatically increase the risk of freezing. Repairing these should be your priority if a cold spell is coming.
- Open cabinets: Opening the cabinets can make it easier for warm air to spread throughout the house, helping to keep pipes warm.
When To Call A Professional
The best time to call a professional is before the problems arise. If you get a qualified plumber to check your pipes once every 1-2 years, you will likely avoid any major issues.
However, you should call a plumber immediately if either of the following are affecting your PVC pipes.
Firstly, call a plumber if your PVC pipes have burst. These need to be repaired immediately. It is also necessary to call a plumber if you notice any water damage. If either of these occurs, you should call a professional as soon as possible.In summary, ask yourself this question. Do I feel confident performing repair work by myself? If the answer is no, you should call a professional.
What to do when PVC pipes freeze? ›
Thaw the Pipe
Too much heat can cause plastic or PVC pipes to melt. You can thaw a frozen pipe by: Using a hair dryer. Putting a space heater or heat lamp a few feet away from the pipe.
Pipes made of copper, steel, PVC, PEX and other plastics are all susceptible to freezing, with copper being the most vulnerable to ruptures when frozen. PEX, PVC and other plastics will freeze but do not always burst.How long does it take for PVC pipes to freeze and burst? ›
Pipes are most likely to burst when exposed to below-freezing conditions for six hours or more, which can happen throughout winter and early spring. Burst pipes could lead to a disaster, bringing severe water damage to your home. To protect your plumbing this spring, follow our three tips to help prevent frozen pipes.How do you unfreeze plastic water pipes outside? ›
Apply heat using heat tape or a heat blanket to thaw the pipe. Leave the pipe exposed to surround it with warm air. Leave the taps that run from the supply line open, so water can drip as it thaws. Once water starts flowing from the faucet normally, the water has thawed.Can I pour hot water on frozen PVC pipe? ›
Never pour hot water on frozen plumbing or try to thaw pipes with a blowtorch. The hot water usually freezes on the outside of the pipe, and the torch can cause frozen pipes to explode if steam is produced. Also, do not strike pipes in an attempt to break up the ice, as hammer blows can cause pipes to crack.At what temperature will PVC pipes burst? ›
Even so, outside temperatures generally have to fall to about 20 degrees Fahrenheit or below before your pipes will freeze or burst due to freezing. Still, you might not want to wait for temperatures to fall that low before taking precautions to protect your pipes from freezing.How cold does it have to be for PVC pipes to freeze? ›
What temperature do pipes freeze in a house? We all know that freezing begins at 32° F or 0° C, but at what point do pipes freeze within our own homes? Temperatures only need to drop to about 20° F for a few hours to put exposed pipes at risk.How do you unfreeze pipes quickly? ›
- Turn on the faucet. Keep it running. ...
- Apply heat to the frozen area. Slowly apply heat using a hair dryer. ...
- Continue to apply heat. Don't stop heating until full water pressure is restored. ...
- Check all faucets and prevent pipes from freezing in the future.
Be prepared to wait at least 30 to 60 minutes. When the pipe begins to thaw, water will start flowing at a faster rate through the open faucet. Even after the water pressure is fully restored, it's recommended to keep the heat on the pipe to ensure the ice in the line is completely melted.Should you leave faucets open when water is turned off? ›
You can empty pipes by running the water and flushing the toilets after the water has been turned off. After draining the pipes, it is a good idea to leave the faucets open to prevent pressure build up from any water that remains. If you have an interior sprinkler system (for fire prevention) don't turn off the water.
Will my pipes freeze if my heat is off? ›
A lot of homeowners are tempted to turn off the heat when they go on overnight trips to save energy. However, pipes are likely to freeze when the heat is turned off if the temperatures outside are very low. You can turn the heat down, but don't turn it completely off when you go away.What temperature should I set my thermostat so pipes don t freeze? ›
Regardless of how long you will be traveling and away from home, keep your thermostat set at 68 degrees Fahrenheit or above. This will help to keep the pipes on the inside of the home from freezing and the ones under the home at a slightly higher temperature as well.What can I pouring down the drain to unfreeze pipes? ›
Simply pour a handful of salt down your drain pipe, quickly followed by boiling water. Alternatively, boil the water in a saucepan and stir the salt in the boiling water. Once the salt has completely dispersed, carefully pour it down the drain.How likely is a frozen pipe to burst? ›
Do frozen pipes always burst? A: Frozen pipes do not always burst, if the expanding ice can push water out through an open faucet. However, pipes freeze quite quickly, so the time between freezing and bursting can be very short.Is it OK to pour boiling water down the drain? ›
Do NOT pour boiling water down your sink or toilet.How many years will PVC pipe last? ›
Based on stress regression, slow crack growth and fatigue testing, the service life of PVC pressure pipe should exceed 100 years. The Water Research Foundation reported that 100 years is a conservative estimate for a properly designed and installed PVC pipe.Can you pour boiling water down PVC pipes? ›
In modern houses some of the drain pipes are PVC plastic, and usually the boiling water will just flow through it without causing any damage.Why wont my pipes unfreeze? ›
Sometimes pipes freeze because your home isn't warm enough to keep them thawed. When the temperatures outside drop, increase your thermostat a few degrees so the heat circulates around your walled-in pipes to help unfreeze them.Should faucets be open or closed when turning water back on? ›
Close all sinks and faucets.
You can leave 1 sink on to help equalize the pressure; any sink will work. Turn it on all the way. Otherwise, every other faucet must be turned off all the way in your home.
Does shutting off the water affect the water heater? When you go on vacation, it's best to also turn off your water heater, as well as the main water supply. Turning off the source of the heat (gas, electric) while you're away will not damage your water heater.
Should I turn off my water during a freeze? ›
DURING freezing weather:
If you plan to be away from home for several days, shutting off the water can reduce the chances of broken pipes. Set your home heat to at least 55 degrees. Shut off water to the house and open all faucets to drain pipes; flush the toilet once to drain the tank, but not the bowl.
How Low is Too Low to Set My Thermostat? If you're going to be leaving your home or traveling for the winter, it's best to keep your thermostat set no lower than 55 degrees. If you don't, you could risk having your pipes freeze over.What is the lowest temperature you can keep your house? ›
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends indoor temperatures of at least 64°F (you can drop that down to 62°F at night if you're really looking to save on your heating bill). But if you have infants, sick or elderly people in your household, then it's recommended that you keep the thermostat set at 70°F.What is the best temperature to leave an empty house? ›
Whether you plan to leave for a vacation or for the season, most heating and cooling professionals recommend setting the thermostat to 55 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature will reduce your heating costs and minimize the risk for hazards such as frozen or burst pipes and flooding.How do you unstick two PVC pipes? ›
Here's how to do this:
- Use a hair dryer or candle to heat up the area where the two joints were glued. ...
- After the heat was applied, gently pull apart the PVC pipes.
Because of its corrosive nature, Drano can cause toilet bowls to crack, PVC pipes to melt or break and the glue that holds pipes together can be eaten away. If any of these things happen, you're going to be left with an inoperable plumbing system and costly repairs.Can plastic plumbing pipes burst? ›
Plastic pipes are also at risk of bursting, but much less so than their copper counterparts. Since they are more flexible than copper pipes, they can usually withstand greater pressure, but they still become a risk when they become more brittle in cold temperatures.How do you dissolve PVC plastic? ›
Some commonly available solvents such as acetone, methylene chloride, trichloroethylene, toluene and xylene would dissolve PVC over time, although I could not tell you which would be the quickest (likely one of the chlorinated solvents).What melts ice in pipes? ›
A hairdryer or fan heater may be all the water pipe needs to thaw out. Always keep the hairdryer moving and do not hold it directly against the pipe because uneven or sudden heating can cause the pipe to burst. Placing a warm wet cloth around the pipe may also melt the ice inside.Does pouring hot water down drain help frozen pipes? ›
In most cases, you can unfreeze a frozen drainpipe by pouring hot water down it. Fill a pot with a half-gallon of water, and heat it on the stove. When it begins to boil, carefully remove it from the stove and slowly pour it down the drain. This may be enough to thaw the ice and completely clear your drain.
Will pipes burst if heat is turned off? ›
Leave the heating on to keep pipes from freezing
While turning the heating off will save money in terms of fuel bills, it's a false economy. Your home will be exposed to sub-zero temperatures and the devastating consequences of repairing significant damage should pipes burst.
A lot of homeowners are tempted to turn off the heat when they go on overnight trips to save energy. However, pipes are likely to freeze when the heat is turned off if the temperatures outside are very low. You can turn the heat down, but don't turn it completely off when you go away.What temperature should I keep my house in winter so pipes don't freeze? ›
Regardless of how long you will be traveling and away from home, keep your thermostat set at 68 degrees Fahrenheit or above. This will help to keep the pipes on the inside of the home from freezing and the ones under the home at a slightly higher temperature as well.Do all frozen pipes burst? ›
Do Pipes Always Burst When They Freeze? Not all frozen pipes burst. However, thawing the ice can increase the risk, as it usually worsens the problem since it raises the pressure further. This is why pipe bursting is especially common at the end of winter when the ice starts to thaw.Can pipes burst after thawing? ›
Surprisingly, it's actually the thawing process that can cause a pipe to burst. This can happen when pressure continues to build as the newly thawed liquid begins to flow and forcefully pushes against the still-frozen areas within the pipe.