What Happens When Pipes Freeze?

There are two factors that can lead to a situation where pipes freeze, cold weather and wind. Living in Northeast Ohio we are all too familiar with temperature drops and high winds. The cold from Lake Erie travels from Cleveland to smaller cities like Akron, Canton, Tallmadge, and Kent. If you live in Summit County, Portage County, or Stark County you know Ohio winter can quickly bring in the freezing temperatures.

The wind carries the cold into you home, through small cracks and crevices and across the water lines. This causes a rapid drop in temperature and water begins to freeze. When water freezes it expands and creates great pressure in the space. Most homes have copper, CPVC, PEX, or cast iron water lines. Each material reacts differently to the pressure when water begins to freeze.


Copper supply lines can withstand up to 3000 PSI. When copper lines fail it is typically at the union, or where pieces have been soldered together. When copper lines freeze the pressure creates both lateral and horizontal force that stretches the material beyond its elasticity causing a small crack. It is not until the water begins to unthaw that material actually ruptures and causes water damage.

The first sign of a frozen pipe is water not coming out of your faucet, shower head, or hose spigot. If you notice no water or a very significant drop in pressure you may be in danger of a frozen pipe and are at risk for a costly insurance claim and major water damage.

The best course of action to prevent a burst pipe is to slowly bring the temperature back up and open a faucet to allow water to trickle out. This relieves the pressure slowly and can potentially prevent the water from bursting through the material and causing significant damages. DO NOT TRY TO THAW A FROZEN PIPE WITH AN OPEN FLAME. Trying to thaw a pipe too rapidly or with an open flame could cause a fire or smoke damage in your home.


Plastic supply lines are more common in newer homes and are more cost effective. PEX lines are are typically colored blue, red, or white. Plastic lines are strong and are more pliable allowing them to withstand freezing a bit better but like copper they will commonly fail at connections points.


CPVC lines are all white and look like your common plastic. These supply lines are very brittle and break easily. If you notice your water pressure is low or no pressure whatsoever, call a restoration professional like Trident Restoration immediately. They will be able to walk you through a process to prevent a rupture and costly water damage. Do not attempt to thaw, shake, tap or touch this type of supply line it will break with the smallest amount of pressure.

How do I prevent my pipes from freezing?

Running water is harder to freeze than stagnant water. You see this in nature. Lakes and ponds will freeze over while streams and rivers will continue to flow. The same thing will happen in your supply lines if they are kept running they will likely not freeze. If you have a bathroom, kitchen, or utility room that barely gets used, it is good practice to let the water run just slightly on the coldest days to alleviate the pressure.

When should I call a professional?

If you believe you have a frozen pipe you should call someone that has experience. Plumbers and restoration companies like, Trident Restoration, will gladly answer any questions you may have and help you prevent a larger issue. If you notice water damage call Trident Restoration, 330-409-8000, immediately. Trident will dispatch IICRC certified water technicians within minutes to come to your home to begin the drying process. We will have a licensed plumber onsite to repair any broken pipes and inspect your plumbing to prevent future issues. Trident Restoration will work with your insurance company to quickly get your home dry, sanitized, and back to pre-loss condition.

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Eric Long and David Bradshaw started Trident Restoration with a vision to provide property owners with the ability to make one phone call and feel assured that their property would be restored to pre-loss condition with as little stress as possible.

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