Preventing and Thawing Frozen Pipes

When temperatures are at or below freezing, water pipes can freeze or break. Here are some tips on how to prevent, prepare, and respond to freezing or burst pipes.

How can I prevent my pipes from freezing?

  • Wrap or insulate pipes in unheated areas, such as attics, crawl spaces, and basement
  • Disconnect hoses from outdoor faucets
  • Cover outdoor faucets and hose bibs with foam insulating covers, newspaper or rags covered with plastic wrap
  • Open cabinets and let indoor faucets drip slowly
  • Keep your thermostat at a set temperature
  • Eliminate drafts

How can I thaw frozen pipes?

  • Use a hair dryer or heat lamp to safely thaw frozen pipes
  • Wrap an electric heat pad around the pipe
  • Soak towels in hot water and wrap them around the frozen portions of the pipe
  • Thaw closest to the faucet first. Once the pipe is thawed, turn the faucet on so melted water can drip out
  • Once the pipe has thawed, leave a little water running so the pipe doesn’t freeze again
  • Don’t open the water meter box near the curb. It could increase the change of freezing water at the meter
  • In cases where the location of the frozen pipe cannot be located or it is not accessible, it is best to call a licensed plumber

My pipe has burst or is broken, what do I do?

  1. Locate your emergency water shut-off valve (usually in your basement, garage, crawl space, or under your home) and turn off your water by turning the handle to the left until it is snug.
  2. If you do not have a shut-off valve (many apartments, manufactured homes, and older homes do not), call Public Works 503-635-0280 to turn off your water at the street.
  3. Then, turn on all of your faucets and flush your toilet(s) to drain the rest of the water from your pipes and reduce the pressure from the burst pipe.
  4. Document the damage by taking pictures with your phone or camera for your landlord and/or insurance claim before doing any cleanup.
  5. Contact a plumber or your property manager for repair work. Repairing broken pipes on the customer’s side of the meter is the property owner’s responsibility.
  6. To have your water turned back on after the repairs have been made by the plumber, please call Public Works at 503-635-0280

What is an emergency water shut-off valve?

The emergency water shut-off valve is what you will use to shut off the water supply to your home in an emergency. Typically, it is located in the basement, crawl space under your home, or in your garage. It may also be located outside your home by the foundation. Some homes do not have shut-off valves. If you cannot locate your water shut-off valve, or if it appears to be stuck, check with a plumber.

Who is responsible for fixing my burst or broken pipe?

Burst pipes inside your home or yard are your responsibility; you will need to contact a plumber and then your home or renter’s insurance. Burst pipes outside your home (in the street, water gushing from fire hydrants) is the responsibility of your water provider.

My pipes are frozen, can the City come and turn off the water at the meter/street?

No, the City will not respond to turn off water at your meter unless there is a break, leak or burst pipe. If your pipe is frozen and we turn the meter off, it may freeze the lateral pipe which connects your household plumbing to the meter and to the City’s system.
Also, please do not open the meter box near the curb – it could increase the chance of freezing water at the meter.
Instead, please contact a licensed plumber to respond to frozen pipes on private property.


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