Frozen bathroom pipes?

For the first time ever, the shower and tub pipes seem to have frozen in our master bathroom, probably because the bathroom is above an unheated basement storage area. (All the other pipes in the apartment, including the master bath sink, are still fine.)

We’re looking around for a space heater to borrow or buy, but no luck so far. What else can we do to prevent burst pipes? Anything?

Open your vanity and kitchen cabinet doors at night. Let the faucets drip, slow and steady, at all times until the freezing weather passes. Go down to the crawl space with a hair dryer and try to thaw the pipes by hand. If that doesn’t work, call a plumber right away.

put a fan blowing air from the warmer part of the basement into that unheated area.

know where to shut off the water feeding those pipes, either whole house or just that section.

Wrap the exposed pipe in heating tape. Any hardware store should have them. My grandmother had hers on a timer that turned them on at dark and off the next morning.

Home Depot sells them in various lengths

heating tapes need to be used following directions. you to have the heating portion of the tape all in contact with the pipe, none not touching the pipe and none touching other of the heating tape. it is both heat and electricity needing to be used with care.

check the area frequently to see if you have a leak.

also at hardware stores are battery powered leak alarms. cost maybe $15. i can hear mine good enough on the first floor with the basement door closed.

I should clarify - this isn’t a house, it’s a 4-unit condo building (3-flat with garden unit). We are the only people with frozen pipes at all, and it’s just the master bath, which is above the (unheated) part of the basement with storage lockers. All other faucets in our unit (kitchen, other bathroom) are fine. But the water pipes aren’t exposed except for the small portion under the bathroom sink, and I can’t go around preemptively hacking up drywall. All the other exposed pipes in the storage area seem to be gas pipes (or at least they lead to the gas meters).

On the bright side, we found what seems to be the only hardware store on the north side of Chicago with any space heaters left in stock, so we bought 2 and plugged them in downstairs. Wish us luck!

You need to be prepared for the worst. Your pipe may have cracked or split due to the frozen water within the pipe and when it thaws, may flood the condo. Locate your water shut off valve and be ready just in case.

Assuming they didn’t split during the freeze, once you get them thawed, let the water drip as I mentioned above.

In the long run, the storage area’s ceiling needs better insulation.

Agreed, and probably also the walls (it’s partially above ground). I’m relatively new at this whole homeownership thing. Also, if I ever find the guy who did the plumbing when the condo conversion was done, I will throttle him. (For this and other plumbing-related reasons.)

Running a space heater in that storage area will help a lot. Just raising the room’s temperature a few degrees can be enough to protect the pipes.

I’ve even heard people claim keeping a 100W bulb on in a small outside laundry closet works.

Oh goody; we now have a burst pipe in the basement. Luckily it’s over the crawlspace, which has nothing important in it. In hindsight, is there any way we could have handled this differently once we realized the pipes had frozen?

I have no water in only one bathroom in my house. Im assuming the pipes are frozen. The pipes are NOT accessible. They are somewhere in the wall or floor. The fixtures, toilet, tub and shower are all on outside walls of the house. I am in a townhome and the bathroom is on the third floor. I have had a space heater in the bathroom since 6AM yesterday morning - all the faucets are open - STILL NO WATER.

My floor is tile and the garden tub and shower are tiled all the way around. No access or shut off valve to either one. I have a double counter sink, and I have the doors open. Its about 75 degrees in the bathroom now. and like I said ALL the pipes are either in the wall or floor (really don’t know) as I just bought this house. The rest of the house (other bathroom on same floor, bathrooms on other floors and kitchen, and laundry room) is fine with water running freely.

Is there anything else I can do to speed along the defrosting of the pipes?

Seems you’re doing everything right, also leave the other faucets in the house open just a bit.

You say you just bought the house. How long have you been there?

Could the water to that bathroom have been be shut off prior to your moving in?

You have no hot water either? Have you tried running hot water on the floor below (or same floor if that’s the way the line runs)? That can help the hot water thawing on the third floor, and to a lesser extent, can help the cold water to thaw. You can also run a hair dryer against the walls. One problem, though, without seeing the pipes – you may have a leak, and once you get the water running, you could have a leak running inside your walls. A plumber will likely want to tear your wall out to get quick access to the pipes. You’d have some repairs to do afterwards, but at least you could insulate your pipes in the process. The fixing of your walls will be cheaper than fixing the damage a leak can cause if gone unattended for some time.

One more thing I just thought of…Does the toilet in this bathroom work? Does it refill after flushing?

randompattern - been in house 9 months - everything was fine until the temperatures dropped - toilet is not working either. another bit of info - there is another bathroom on the same floor - that does not have any outside wall exposures and that is fine. So its must be the pipes that are specifically for this bathroom.

Note – that’s a 100 watt incandescent bulb, where 95+ watts are going into heat. I recently had to explain that to someone who was trying to use a 100-watt equivalent CFL bulb, and it wasn’t working.

No. The pipe had been cracked as soon as it froze. You could have done something to prevent that before it happened, had you known it was likely. When you repair it, add insulation, and consider using modern PEX pipe --it is more forgiving of freesing than solid metal or plastic pipe.

Make sure you know how to shut off the water to the house, in case the pipes are already broken. You won’t know until they thaw.

PEX is not allowed by code where Eva Luna is. I’ll second insulating the pipes and asking the plumber if there is anything they can install valve wise or drainage wise to prevent this in the future.