Prevent Frozen Water Pipes

Water pipes and water meters can freeze within hours if exposed to cold air, which can result in a cut off of water to the household. Even worse, frozen pipes can burst, flooding your home and leading to costly repairs.

Homeowners and landlords should take simple steps to prevent damage, such as always keeping inside temperatures above 32 degrees, wrapping pipes with insulation or heat tape or allowing a trickle of water to run from a faucet to keep water moving and prevent freezing. If you have damaged water pipes in your home, please call a licensed plumber for assistance.

If you have no water, call the Water Works Customer Service Center at (414) 286-2830, Monday-Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. After 5 p.m. and on weekends, call the Control Center at (414) 286-3710. TDD (414) 286-8801.

If you have a frozen or damaged water meter (your meter is usually located inside the property where the service line enters the building and connects to your plumbing) call Meter Services at (414) 286-8000, Monday-Saturday from 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. After 4:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday, and at any time on Sunday, call (414) 286-3710. TDD (414) 286-8801. Email watwebcs@milwaukee.gov for non-emergency contact.
 

Eliminate cold drafts near water pipes

  • Tightly close doors and windows to the outside.
  • Install storm windows on basement windows.
  • Eliminate drafts from crawl space.
  • Fill cracks in walls and around windows.
  • Turn off water connections to your garden hose at an inside valve and drain the exposed piping before freezing temperatures set in.

Provide warmth to the water pipes

  • Open the door to the room where the pipes are located to allow warmth to circulate.
  • Place a lighted bulb near water pipes. Never use open flames.
  • Wrap pipes in insulation or heat tape.
  • If your kitchen or bathroom sink is located against an outside wall, insulate the wall.
  • Open cabinet door below the sink to allow warm air to reach the pipes.

Make frequent use of your water supply

  • Flowing water often breaks up ice below freezing
  • When outside temperatures remain below freezing, it's less expensive to run your faucet regularly than to repair a frozen or burst pipe

 

How To Thaw Frozen Water Pipes

The pipes are frozen if no water comes from your faucets when you turn them on. Most likely the pipes nearest a wall, door, window, or along the floor are frozen.

  1. Start by opening a faucet near the frozen pipe to release any vapor from the melting ice and so that you'll know when the water starts flowing again.
  2. Begin warming the pipes nearest the faucet and work toward the frozen section.
  3. Blow warm air on the pipe using a hair dryer. Do not leave the dryer unattended or allow it to overheat.
  4. Do not use a blowtorch or open flame to warm pipes. This is a fire hazard and could cause an explosion.
  5. Once water has begun to flow again, let a pencil-sized stream of water flow through the faucet until normal heating is restored to the area.
  6. Eliminate cold drafts and allow warm air to circulate around the pipes to prevent freezing again.

 

How To Prevent A Frozen Water Meter

  • It is colder near the floor and along the block wall of a basement than at the ceiling, so make sure warm air is allowed to circulate around your meter. Follow the previous instruction about preventing freezing frozen water pipes.
  • If your meter is in a separate room, leave the door open to this room to allow warmth to circulate. If your meter is in a cabinet, open the cabinet door.
  • If the meter is in an outdoor pit, check to see that the cover fits properly and that it has no cracks into which cold wind can blow. The pipes, valves and the meter inside such pits should not touch the concrete walls.

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