This Texan forgot to take precautions for frozen pipes. Now his water doesn't work.

This morning we have very low (to no) water pressure in all our faucets and toilets.

Also, the temperature outside (in Indianapolis, where we are) is one degree Fahrenheit.

I had totally forgotten about the fact that there are things you’re supposed to do to prevent frozen pipes etc, because for 36 out of my 37 years, this has been no concern at all in my life so I don’t have the habit developed yet.

I don’t know that the low pressure has to do with frozen pipes. I also don’t think I have burst pipes, but I don’t know this for sure. (I just know there’s no evidence of it in the cellar or outside anywhere, which I am merely guessing would be the logical places to check.

Basically I’m just asking people, what do I need to do at this point, to

A. Prevent the possibility of further, worse problems, or ideally
B. Possibly fix the pressure problem

I’m sure there’s not enough info here. If I can provide more useful information, I will.

ETA: It is not all our faucets–I was misinformed by a child. It is just one side of our house that has low pressure right now.

First open the faucets just a little bit so that any water that does thaw can escape. Then, if you can find the actual part of the water line that’s frozen, starting from the faucet end and working your way back, thaw the pipe by wrapping it in hot towels or aiming a hair dryer at it. I will note that despite living in Minnesota all my life, I’ve never actually had to fix a frozen pipe; this is just what I was always taught to do.

The longterm fix is to insulate pipes you need all through the winter and drain the ones you won’t such as pipes in campers or pools and sprinklers.

If you really do have frozen, but not burst pipes, I’d run the water (hot and cold) and see if that thaws them out, on the hopes that they’re only partially frozen.
You didn’t say if you have a crawlspace under your house or pipes in outside walls on in your attic. In colder climates (like us here in the midwest) they typically don’t put pipes in places where they can freeze so it’s not really an issue).
Is it all your faucets or just one? If it’s just one, open the cabinet under to get some heat back there, you can even help it along by putting a lamp (carefully) down there.

ETA, be on the lookout for a burst pipe too, and be ready to shut off the house water if you see any water where you shouldn’t see water. You might even keep an eye on the meter to see if it runs when it shouldn’t be running.

In 100% of my (sorta limited) experience with frozen pipes, it’s always a portion of the pipe* underground *that freezes.

I have this issue at home, the only real solution is to have the line from the water main dug up and sunk lower.
Usually what I do is let my line freeze and call the water company. They steam the line free again and install a dummy water meter, allowing me to run a tap at a steady dribble to ward off freezing. Last year a steady dribble wasn’t enough, and the lines still froze. :eek: Called the water company again, and they tut-tutted, saying “run a tap FULLY OPEN so that we don’t have to come again.”

The portion of line that causes the issue in my case is on the city’s side of the line, and I’m damned if I’m going to run the water on my dime.
Frylock, as Inner Stickler and Joey P advising, for the love of god run your taps if you don’t want to have to call to have the lines steam thawed. Depending on where the freeze is, you’re probably fine running just the cold.

If you can’t get the water to run on its own after doing the above, you’ll need to call a plumber. He’ll bring a rattler with him, which resembles a small welder, attach it at different points, and hopefully get your water running again. I wouldn’t just wait for it to thaw on its own. If there is still a trickle of water, then the pipes likely aren’t completely frozen, but if that should happen, the likelihood of a burst pipe will increase as the pipes freeze solid.

If you continue to experience sub-freezing temperatures you need to take care of that. As the others are saying, open the faucets so water is at least dripping for each one not yet frozen.

Do you have pipes running through a crawl space, next to an outside wall, or say over the top of a garage? If you can carefully direct some heat to those areas it may help, but I think you may want to call a plumber if water doesn’t start flowing soon and you expect more freezing temperatures.

Also, if you have hot water baseboard heating and any part of that seem blocked (you can tell if any part of the baseboard is cold with the heat on) then cut off the heat to that area. The pressure from the pumps can cause the pipe to swell and then burst.

I had the water stop at an upstairs bathroom last year during a period of extreme cold. I had turned the heat down upstairs, because we weren’t using that part of the house, had closed the bathroom door, and the vanity door was also closed. Luckily, I found it before the pipes burst. I turned the faucet on a little bit, turned the heat up and opened the vanity cabinet to let in some warm air. The water started running after several minutes.

If you are lucky, you have an isolated problem that you can identify and add some heat before the pipe bursts.

I would be pretty careful with that hair dryer suggestion above. Heating things too fast can have very bad results.

As another long term solution, you may not have to dig up the pipes and bury them deeper. There are systems for keeping a gentle heat on pipes in areas vulnerable to freezing.

Including the hot water faucets?

If it’s only one side of the house, it should be reasonably easy to pinpoint the area where things are freezing. Do the pipes run through an unheated crawlspace or through the outer wall of the house? Any obvious air leaks into the house? Did you have the heat turned down in any rooms?

Just turning the heat up may be enough to get things running again. A hair dryer should be reasonably safe (but don’t leave it running unattended), but I’d be cautious with anything hotter like a heat gun. Do not use a propane torch – people burn down their houses all the time trying to thaw out pipes. Open flame and dry framing lumber are a bad combination.

In the future, just keeping faucets open slightly so water can flow is a good idea on very cold nights.

In my experience, pipes in crawlspaces or right next to outside walls in enclosed sink enclosures tend to freeze.

Solution is leave the sink enclosure cabinet open and/or leave the water dripping if it won’t be above freezing for several days.

Follow up:

By pure coincidence, a friend was at our house today who has some kind of engineering degree that entails she knows all about plumbing, wiring, and HVAC stuff.

With her help, we were able to determine the following.

While our cellar/crawlspace is generally above freezing, this particular problematic bathroom is over a part of the crawlspace where you can feel a distinctly cold draft. You can’t get up in there though–or if you can, we couldn’t figure out how. (How did anyone do it before to get the pipes laid? I don’t know, I can only figure they did it from above as the expansion was being added to the house? I don’t know.)

And indeed that bathroom is well known as the coldest room in the house.

So we think the pipes in that little cold area are frozen.

However, we’ve put a space heater in the offending bathroom, (and of course the faucet has (now) been left on), and left the door open–to no avail. I did see one single drip, but that is all, and for all I know that water has been waiting to drip since before the freezing happened. As far as I can tell, after hours of warming up the room (it’s now sweltering), no change has occurred with respect to the water flow.

Friend is optimistic that nothing has burst, because there is no flooding coming from the cold area mentioned above.

But also, it’s not fixing.

Almost to the point of calling somebody in about it but not sure.

Make sure you’re directing the space heater at the pipes as much as you can, so point it under the sink.
After a while, you might want to move it into the crawlspace and see what you can do under there. As close to the pipes as you can get it.

Ice does take a long time to thaw and the pipes are probably insulated.

If it’s not running when you go to bed, you should probably shut off the water to the house and leave all the taps open so if something does burst it doesn’t make a mess.

I would hold off as long as possible before calling someone in since they might need to do some digging, either of the basement foundation wall or the floor of the addition.

Just googling ‘texas weather’ it looks like it’s not that cold (at least in Houston which is what came up first). If it’s starting to warm up, it should thaw out soon. Is it still cold out?

OTOH, you might have a different problem.

ETA, I know this is silly, but make sure all the valves are fully turned on. The valves under the sink, the valves in the crawlspace etc.

Try taking the aerator off and turn the sink on, does it work now?

Does the toilet in that room work? It’s likely run from the same pipe as the sink.

Does the hot water work?

You must have missed it, he’s a Texan in Indianapolis.

I’m in Indianapolis… one degree fahrehnheit this morning.

Electrical thermal tape from Homes Depot permanently wound around exposed pipes, it kicks on at a certain cold temperature; we had the frozen pipe problems and it worked a charm. A hair dryer has also worked but is far more tedious.

The OP states “very low (to no) pressure”. If the water has been running slowly for over 5 hours, that can’t be because of it still being frozen. I’ve dealt with frozen pipes many times and once you get even a drip it doesn’t take more than 15 minutes or so for it to clear up completely. It sounds more like some other kind of blockage or maybe a break somewhere that’s leeching pressure.

Well as a great Texan once said,

You say you’re gonna freeze,
You know it’s a lie ’cause
That’ll be the day when I die.

Good luck.

Sorry, I thought I had later clarified this but I see that I didn’t.

One faucet was very low pressure, the rest were no flow at all.

The one that was very low now seems to be back to normal. (I think it’s a little low, wife disagrees). This was before we even did anything.

The others, though, continue to have no flow.

I even checked just to make sure some kid didn’t turn the water off to that sink–no dice. And anyway it’s also a toilet that has no water flow.)

First of all, welcome to Indy. I had missed that you moved here. There are a few Indy Dopers so feel free if you have any questions. There really is something to “Hoosier Hospitality.” Let me know which part of town you are in and if nothing else I should be able to give you some good food recommendations.

Anyway, sounds like your pipes are frozen but not burst (yet). Start by opening any cabinets under sinks. Turn on your faucet and stick a hair dryer in under the sink. Just let it go for a while and if eventually see a drizzle from the faucet you are good. Keep the drizzle going. This works most of the time.

If it doesn’t though… I hate to say it but you may want to call a plumber. It won’t be cheap, but less than if the pipes actually burst.