Freezing and Bursting Pipes

bursting pipes

How pipes freeze and burst, and what are the steps to prevent damage?

Bursting pipes are a notable problem when winter temperatures drop below freezing. But why do frozen pipes burst?

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not the ice expanding in the pipe that causes it to burst, but it’s the pressure that builds up between the faucet and the frozen point. Ice doesn’t always expand and break the pipe itself. Sometimes it grows lengthwise along the tube, putting more and more pressure on any water not yet frozen. Because liquid doesn’t compress very well, the force is redirected against any weaknesses in the pipe and ultimately resulting in a break or burst.

If You Suspect a Frozen Pipe

If you open a faucet and no water comes out, don’t take any chances. Call one of our service plumbers in Bend, Portland, Eugene, and Salem, for our Oregon plumbing services. If a water pipe burst you should:

    • Switch off the water supply at the main shut-off valve (usually located at the water meter or where the main line enters the home); leave the faucet(s) open until completion of repairs.
    • Don’t attempt to thaw a frozen pipe with an open flame, blow torch, or heat lamp as this will destroy the tube and may even start building a fire.
  • You might be able to thaw a pipe with a handheld hair dryer. Just gently apply heat, work closely to the faucet’s end, with the valve open. Continue toward the freezing section. Also, never use electrical appliances while standing in water; you could get electrocuted.

Preventive Solutions


Using wall insulation or foam pipe insulation is the most efficient ways to reduce the possibility of freezing pipes. There’s nothing better than quality insulation to lessen the impact of freezing temperatures, especially around pipes inside the outer wall of your home.

Heat Tapes

Similar to insulation, heat tapes can be used to lessen the pipe’s exposure to cold temperatures. It’s best to use this preventive solution on visible pipes only.

Let it Drip

Letting a faucet drip during extreme cold weather can prevent a pipe from bursting. This method will provide relief from excessive pressure that builds between the faucet and the ice blockage when freezing occurs. Even a tiny drop can be efficient and is much better than nothing.

Shut-off the Main Valve & Drain

When you’re away on vacation for an extended period during the winter, you should shut-off the main valve and drain your water system. With no water in the pipes, there’s no water to freeze. Just remember to turn on the main tap and let each fixture run until the tubes are full again when you return home.

Rerouting Plumbing

This solution is probably the most costly one, but sometimes it’s the only option. In various cases, hire our professional Washington plumbing service providers in Bellevue, Spokane, Seattle, Vancouver and Tacoma, and also our Las Vegas plumbers to re-route your plumbing away from the colder areas of your home. Use this preventive solution as a last resort.

Taking precautions before winter sets in can reduce and lessen the risk of frozen pipes and other cold-weather threats. Preparing your pipes for the worst-case scenario is an excellent idea. If you have questions or think you may have a burst pipe, Einstein Plumbing, Heating, and Cooling is happy to help in any way we can. Contact us at 888-671-7767 or email to provide you with plumbing, water heater, heating & cooling, and sewer & mainline services in Oregon, Washington, and Nevada.

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