Q:

Why do frozen pipes burst?

A:

Quick Answer

Water expands when it freezes, which causes pipes to burst. Pipes are strong, but the pressure imparted by solidifying water is often too much for them to bear.

Know More
Why do frozen pipes burst?
Credit: mario loiselle E+ Getty Images

Full Answer

Most substances take up less space in their solid states than when they are in liquid form; water is an exception to this. In solid form, atoms of a substance are close together. In liquid form, atoms can spread out a bit, and chemicals expand significantly when they are in gaseous form. However, when water freezes, it forms a crystalline grid that causes it to expand.

The crystalline structure of ice makes it susceptible to cracking and shattering, but it also gives it more strength. Pipes are designed to withstand the force of ice formation, but few are able to withstand the pressure imparted when a significant length of ice forms.

Water's expansion when it undergoes a phase transition to a solid is part of the reason why ice floats, but there are other causes. Water will often trap air when it freezes and form a strong barrier than prevents this air from being released. Ice can also have a hollow core, and it will remain buoyant if this core is not breached.


Is this answer helpful?

Similar Questions

  • Q:

    How do you thaw frozen pipes?

    A:

    Thaw frozen pipes by opening the faucet and then applying heat to the frozen area. You need heated towels, a heating pad or an electric hair dryer. Most pipes can be thawed in less than an hour.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:
  • Q:

    Why do my pipes hum after I flush the toilet?

    A:

    One of the most common causes of humming pipes after flushing a toilet is debris trapped in an inlet valve. Water carries small stones, calcium deposits and solder to the valve area which traps them, resulting in the annoying noise.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:
  • Q:

    How do you keep pipes from freezing?

    A:

    To prevent frozen pipes, leave a trickle of warm water running from a faucet on nights when the temperature drops. The slow flow of water prevents ice from blocking pipes and also prevents freezing damage. In addition, leaving under-sink cabinets open allows warm air to circulate around pipes and keeps their temperature from dropping into the freezing range.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:
  • Q:

    How do you unfreeze pipes?

    A:

    As soon as you discover a frozen pipe, take action to prevent it from bursting. Thaw a frozen pipe by turning on the faucet that the pipe is connected to and applying heat to melt the ice in the pipe. You need a heat source, such as an electric heating pad, a hair dryer or hot towels. How long it takes to thaw depends on how much ice is in the pipe and the heat source you use.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:

Explore