In this guide, we’ll discuss how to thaw frozen pipes underground.
One challenge people face with repairs or maintenance tasks has to do with seasonal or climatic impact.
In other words, seasons such as winter present a unique challenge as underground pipes become frozen. This situation affects the smooth functioning of plumbing systems.
It could be anything from water pipes to septic or sewer lines.
Whatever the case is, such a frozen condition needs to be addressed. When freezing occurs, the most immediate and appropriate response is to seek ways to thaw such pipes.
Why Thaw Frozen Pipes?
Pipes are of different dimensions and meant to channel substances such as water among other things.
When such pipes become frozen, it simply means that water flowing through them becomes trapped. This clogs the system and prevents free movement.
Under such circumstances, an expansion occurs. Water is known to expand when it freezes. This freezing activity results in breaks or cracks, thus compromising the system.
You’ll need to have such frozen pipes thawed to allow for a free flow of its content.
Signs Of Frozen Pipes
When pipes freeze, it affects their normal functioning. The contents of such pipes are unable to flow. This results in issues that will have to be assessed through close inspection.
To perform such an inspection, you’ll need to know the signs to look out for.
There are basic signs that include visible frost over pipes, little or no running water, and unpleasant odors. These are three of the most common signs that point to a frozen pipe.
Let’s briefly discuss each as follows;
Visible Frost Over Pipes
This sign of a frozen pipe is visual. In other words, frost is quite visible as it’s seen to cover the pipe. When the frost is seen over the pipe’s surface, there’s a possibility that the contents are frozen as well.
However, not all pipes are exposed, hence making it difficult to inspect.
Little to No Running Water
There are only two possible reasons why a line or pipe won’t deliver its content. This includes frost or other forms of clogs such as unfiltered particles getting in the way or lodged within pipes.
Both scenarios are classified as clogs and prevent the free movement of water or other contents.
You may observe water trickling out even when there’s enough in the reservoir. Worse-case scenarios may have the pipe blocked completely. Such frozen pipes will need to be thawed to allow for free movement of their contents.
Frozen pipes are known to give out a characteristic unpleasant odor.
Close inspection (through tracing of such odors) will show that it’s coming from your pipe outlets or inlets. This calls for further investigations as to the cause and thawing of your pipes if they’re frozen.
Thawing Underground Pipes Step By Step
Underground frozen pipes are our focus as they present a unique challenge for homeowners. A lot of questions may arise when underground pipes are suspected or found to be frozen.
All such questions border on how best to unfreeze or thaw the frozen pipe.
Do I need to dig up the ground above the pipes for easy access to thaw? This is an important question and one that worries many homeowners. However, the truth is you don’t need to do all of that.
All you have to do is follow the procedure made available here.
The type of service line you’re dealing with determines the approach you take. There are basically two types; small and large service lines. The approaches are much different as you’ll find out shortly.
Thawing Small Underground Service Lines
Small service lines or pipes are mostly found in single residential units.
When underground frozen pipes are discovered, you’ll need to take the following action. Get a small flexible plastic tube (such as a half-inch or smaller) and insert it into the opening of the underground pipe.
Next, pump in warm water through the other end of your flexible plastic tube using an appropriate pump. This gradually melts the ice, thus freeing up the clog for normal passage of water.
Thawing Larger Underground Service Lines
The approach adopted here is quite different from that performed on small service lines.
Larger underground service lines are best freed up using a water jetter. The water jetter is connected to a hot water supply (preferably a tank of water. This serves as a de-icer when blasted into the pipes.
A jetter pump can be used with any of the following tools; garden hose, or food-grade tubing. Such a steady blast of hot water eventually frees or thaws the frozen underground pipe, making way for clear access.
For both cases, (small and large service lines), a completely blocked or frozen pipe will require an outlet for melted ice to come out. The hose or pipe dimensions you use will have to be smaller than those of underground pipes.
This allows for the return of water which needs to be pumped steadily.
A Possible Leak After A Frozen Pipe Is Thawed
A frozen underground pipe situation may not be fully resolved through thawing. Although it frees up frost, there may be damage left behind from the expansion of frozen water. Most pipes are rigid.
In other words, they aren’t designed to be elastic hence the cracks which form after frost expansion.
Having thawed such pipes, leakages are likely to ensue from resulting cracks. This affects smooth functioning and requires immediate repairs. You’ll need to call a professional to have your pipes inspected and repaired.
Do I Need the Help of A Plumber?
Plumbers are professionals when it comes to water, waste, and drainage fixtures. As such, any issue relating to a malfunctioning pipe is best addressed by calling in reliable plumbers for the job. This saves you the stress of having to figure out how to thaw your pipes.
Also, the damage (such as cracks) that results from thawing are resolved in no time.
Thawing frozen pipes underground can become a real challenge when you have little idea about how best to approach or tackle the situation. All that is resolved with the information provided above.
You may decide to adopt the DIY option as outlined above or call in the professionals.