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Commercial Property Maintenance 101: Thawing Frozen Drain Lines

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Commercial Property Maintenance 101: Thawing Frozen Drain Lines

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When winter arrives, the potential for frozen drain lines in commercial properties comes with it. It happens in a matter of hours. In extreme cold, pipes can freeze in as little as six hours. Furthermore, if temperatures drop below freezing, water inside drain lines can freeze and cause blockages. 

The blockages can lead to major headaches. Property owners and tenants alike could have problems, mainly because backups can cause costly damage to plumbing and property interiors. Around 15% of insurance claims against businesses are for water or freezing damages.

Fortunately, thawing frozen drain lines is a straightforward process. It only needs a few simple steps.  Below are the causes of frozen pipes and what commercial properties can do to prevent them:

What Are The Main Causes Of Frozen Drain Lines?

Any pipe exposed to the freezing and harsh winter climate can quickly freeze over. Unfortunately, many plumbing systems can’t withstand plummeting temperatures. Here are the most common causes for frozen drain lines:

  • Uninsulated drains or pipes – either internal or external
  • Running water like a leaking toilet or tap
  • Blockages or clogging of the drains

The first line of defense for commercial properties would be to prevent these common issues. After that, keeping the drains thawed shouldn’t be much effort.

How Can Commercial Properties Thaw Frozen Drains?

Frozen drain lines could be a great inconvenience. Workers who need to use the plumbing in the company kitchen, bathrooms, or shared rooms may only realize the problem when they report for duty. This is one of the potential problems for commercial properties.

Professional plumbing services with a hydro jetting service and knowledge of these issues could be the first port of call. Luckily, staff can also follow the steps below to determine the best way of thawing the drains:

  • Identify The Problem 

The first step in thawing frozen drain lines is identifying that there is a problem in the first place. Signs of a frozen drain line can include slow drainage, gurgling sounds, and foul odors emanating from drains. If staff notice these signs, they must act quickly to prevent further damage.

  • Locate The Frozen Area 

Once staff establishes a problem, the next step would be locating the frozen area. Some could be easy to spot, especially when drain lines are visible outside. However, the interior pipes need a different way of investigation.

A drain snake can quickly find the frozen interior section. When pushing the snake down the pipes, it should stop moving once it reaches the blockage. Identifying the blocked area now leads to the next step.

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  • Thaw The Frozen Area 

The most effective way to thaw a frozen drain line is to use a heat source. There are several ways to do this, including:

  • Using a hair dryer
  • Using a heat gun
  • Applying heat tape 

Be sure to apply heat slowly and evenly, as sudden temperature changes can cause pipes to crack or burst. More importantly, the damages could be costly to repair. Not to mention there are costs of damage to the inside of the property from the overflowing water.

  • Test The Drain 

The final step in thawing the frozen drain lines is to test the fix. Water should run freely, and there shouldn’t be any previous signs of a blockage. If not, repeat the process until all the frozen sections are ice-free. 

Running the water for a few minutes could indicate that the problem is resolved or needs more attention. This is essential, as small amounts could drain past blocks. In contrast, larger quantities could still back up in the drain.

  • Prevent Future Problems 

Some properties can be more prone to freezing their drain lines than others. Commercial properties in an area known for its frigid temperatures are more susceptible. For this reason, the occupants can apply any of the following measures to prevent future problems:

  • Insulate pipes in areas prone to freezing
  • Use antifreeze in drains 
  • Keeping a consistent temperature in the building

Commercial properties that don’t thaw their drain lines at first sight of a problem could open themselves to more significant issues. Burst pipes and flooding are two of them. Both could cause complete havoc for a business.

Why Should Commercial Properties Thaw Their Drains?

Along with avoiding the obvious problem of not having any running water, there is more to consider. To better understand the importance of thawing frozen drain lines, commercial properties need to understand the consequences of not doing so. 

As discussed here, there could be severe property damage, amongst other dangers:

  • Burst drain lines: Water expands when it turns to ice, putting immense pressure on the drainpipes. Eventually, it leads to bursting. If this happens, extensive and costly repairs could be the only viable option.
  • Water flooding the property: In this case, the entire property can overflow with water, causing damage to structures or equipment. Furthermore, regular insurance may not cover the replacement or repairs, leaving businesses out of pocket. 

Resolving frozen drain lines is undoubtedly a priority for any commercial property, mainly because of the cost of repairs and the replacement of equipment. But the flooding could also pose a health and safety risk to staff. 

Wet areas could develop mold, affecting the well-being of the occupants. Additionally, they could also cause slip-and-fall accidents that the company could avoid.


Effectively thawing frozen drain lines in commercial property could prevent future problems. If you’re experiencing issues with frozen drain lines, don’t hesitate to contact a professional plumber for assistance. With some maintenance, you can keep your commercial property’s plumbing system in top shape all winter.

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