Frozen Water Pipes

Public Works

To: Mounds View Property Owners
From: Public Works
Date: February 13, 2014 (updated 2/19/2014)
RE: Frozen Underground Water Pipes

The winter of 2013-2014 has been consistently cold with unusually long periods of subzero temperatures.  These conditions drive frost deeper into the ground, especially below exposed surface areas without snow cover such as driveways and streets.  In these exposed areas, the frost has been encountered at depths over seven feet and approaching bury zones where underground water pipes exist.

Mounds View property owners need to be aware of the threat of frozen underground water pipes since the smaller service laterals supplying water from the water main to the structure is the responsibility of the property owner, not the City.  The City will repair broken or leaking water service pipes associated with residential single family homes, duplexes, and four-plexes through its water repair program, but a frozen pipe is not covered under this program.  To date, Public Works is aware of five properties in Mounds View where an underground private water service line has become frozen.

To Help Avoid Frozen Underground Water Pipes

Let the cold water run from one faucet throughout the day and night.  The amount of running water should be a pencil sized stream or “trickle”. Doing this allows the water to maintain a constant flow in the pipe and discourage freezing, similar to that of a creek or stream in winter.

The City will not adjust water bills or reimburse customers who decide to run water for this purpose.  There will be additional water consumption costs by running a constant trickle, but the cost will be a fraction of the $1,000 to $2,500 typical costs a plumber may charge you to unfreeze the service pipe.

What Should I Do If My Underground Water Pipe Freezes

If you lose water supply, please call Public Works at 763-717-4050 during normal business hours (M-F, 7am to 4:30pm) or Ramsey County Dispatch at 651-484-9155 outside normal business hours.  Public Works will verify the lack of water is not related to a water main or other City responsible issue.  In most cases, the frozen pipe is the private service lateral and will require the property owner to call a plumber to fix.

A plumber can thaw an underground pipe by two common processes involving electrical thawing and hot-water or steam thawing.  Public Works discourages the use of electrical thawing due to the potential risks of house fires and smaller property damages to appliances, electronics, etc.  This damage can occur to neighboring properties as well.  Click here for a list of licensed plumbers in Mounds View.  Ask for proof of liability insurance and bonding documentation.

Neither method is guaranteed to thaw a frozen pipe.  In the event that a frozen pipe cannot be thawed, an insulated hose can be connected to outdoor spigots between two homes to supply a temporary water supply.  This will require consent from the supplying property owner and approval from Public Works before the connection is made.

Other Tips Regarding Frozen Water Pipes

  • The most likely spot for water lines to freeze inside the house/building is where it enters the house/building.
  • Make sure to clear the area of storage items so warmer room air can reach the pipes.  This may mean removing items from a vanity cabinet or in a utility room.
  • Use heat tape.
  • Use a warm hair dryer.
  • Make sure the roof vent is not covered with snow or is otherwise blocked.  Snow build up over the vent will cause the sewer drain to slow down.  This prevents the warmer air in the sewer system from venting up the house line and keeping the line above freezing.
  • Monitor water flow in the nearest (to the outside) fixture closely.  Run your cold water for a couple minutes and then take the temperature of the water.  If it is below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, you can let your cold water run from this faucet at a pencil thickness.
  • You should run it non-stop when there is no one home or no water is being used for a period of time.
  • Watch for unintended consequences of sewer or septic backups if running water continuously.
  • If a home's thermostat isn't hardwired and relies on a battery, property owners should make sure that battery is fresh.

If you have questions, please contact Mounds View Public Works Department at (763) 717-4050, M-F, 7am – 3:30pm. 

The City of Mounds View is providing this information for educational and informational purposes only. It is ultimately the decision of the property owner to determine what course of action is to be taken with regard to private water service pipes.

Frozen water pipes? Here's what to do about it  -link to Feb. 2014 article in Pioneer Press