Freezing Pipes

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Cold weather can cause serious plumbing problems without proper precautions. Water pipes can burst if the water within them freezes, and plumbing repairs to fix pipes can be very costly. 

The City of Hillsboro Water Department reminds customers that the best way to handle any sort of water emergency in your home including broken pipes is to be prepared before it happens. Taking a few minutes to familiarize yourself with the plumbing system in your home and note the location of all shut off valves are important steps in preventing a plumbing emergency from turning into a disaster. 

Access a brochure detailing nine ways to prevent water pipes from freezing - and steps to take if they do.

Preventing Frozen Pipes

Before the onset of cold weather, prevent freezing of water supply lines and pipes by following these recommendations:

  • Insulate pipes most susceptible to freezing. Pipes that freeze most frequently are those that are exposed to severe cold, like outdoor hose bibs, swimming pool supply lines, water sprinkler lines, and water supply pipes in unheated interior areas like basements and crawl spaces, attics, garages, or kitchen cabinets. Pipes that run against exterior walls that have little or no insulation are also subject to freezing.
  • Caulk around pipes where they enter the home.
  • Seal leaks that allow cold air inside near where pipes are located. A tiny opening can let in enough cold air to cause a pipe to freeze. Check for leaks around electrical wiring, dryer vents, and pipes. Use caulk or insulation to block off the cold air.
  • Remove, drain, and store hoses used outdoors.
  • Drain irrigation system and backflow prevention device(s). If possible, use an indoor valve to shut off and drain pipes leading to outside faucets.
  • Cover foundation vents with foam blocks or cardboard.
  • Wrap outside faucets and backflow prevention devices with insulating material.
  • Consider shutting off the water and draining your plumbing system if you plan to be out of town for an extended period during winter. Turn off the water at the main shut off valve and turn on every faucet (hot and cold) until the water stops running. Drain toilets by holding down the lever until tank empties.

During Freezing Weather, Take Preventative ActionFROZEN PIPES Graphic with link to a prevention brochure.

When winter temperatures reach extreme lows, homeowners are encouraged to take extra precautions to prevent frozen pipes.

  • Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.
  • Let faucets trickle both hot and cold water overnight. Moving water is less likely to freeze.
  • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals up out of the reach of children.
  • During the winter months, especially during freezing weather, keep the heat on and set no lower than 55 degrees. 
  • Protect exposed pipe from wind, which can accelerate freezing.  Set up a wind block if possible, and wrap pipes, hose bibs, and outdoor faucets with towels or insulation.

To Safely Thaw Frozen Pipes

If you turn on a faucet and only a trickle comes out, suspect a frozen pipe. Likely places for frozen pipes include against exterior walls or where water service enters your home through the foundation. If you think you may have a frozen water line, thaw the pipe as soon as possible:

  • Shut off the water at the main shut off valve, turn on all the faucets in the house, and call a plumber immediately.
  • Thaw frozen pipes by wrapping them with a thick layer of rags and pour boiling water over the rags or by using a hand held dryer, heat slowly starting closest to the faucet end, working towards the coldest section of the pipe.
  • NEVER attempt to thaw a pipe with a torch or any other kind of open flame. This is a fire hazard and extremely dangerous.
  • Once the pipe has thawed, make sure to leave a little water running so the pipe does not freeze again.

Broken Pipes

  • Close your main water shut-off valve to your house.  Most shut-off valves are located where the water line enters the house, usually somewhere in the garage near the hot water heater, but can also be outside the garage, or in the basement. Sometimes older homes do not have shut-off valves, and the water must be shut off at the meter. If your home does not have a shut-off valve, consider having one installed, as it can save time and prevent damage during an emergency.
  • Turn off the water heater if it is near empty. Locate the dedicated shut-off valve on the cold water inlet. If you don't want to turn the hot water heater off, avoid using hot water until the water inlet is back on. If the hot water heater empties and remains on, it will likely burn out and require replacement. Don't take that chance.
  • Remember, the repair of broken pipes on the customer's side of the meter is the customer's responsibility. Contact a plumber for repair work. 
Graphic with a link to the preventing frozen pipes brochure.

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