Does PEX Pipe Burst When Frozen?

PEX pipe

As a homeowner living in a cold climate, it's natural to wonder, does PEX pipe burst when frozen? Like any pipe, PEX pipe does freeze when the temperature drops low enough. However, unlike other rigid pipes, PEX is flexible, significantly reducing the likelihood of a pipe burst.

So, if you have a PEX pipe, your house is unlikely to flood from a pipe burst. However, that doesn't mean that frozen pipes are risk-free. Because the PEX pipe does freeze, there can be issues during the thawing process. These issues can lead to water damage.

Want to learn more about PEX pipes and how freezing temperatures affect them? Then you've come to the right place. Find out how to tell when a PEX pipe is frozen, how to thaw it, and get answers to commonly asked questions:

  • How to Tell if PEX Is Frozen
  • How to Thaw Frozen PEX Water Lines
  • Frozen PEX Pipe FAQs

How to Tell if PEX Is Frozen

It’s easy to tell when average pipes are frozen because they burst so easily. However, with a PEX pipe, it's not quite as simple. Since these pipes rarely burst in freezing temperatures, you have to look for other signs of a pipe freeze. Here are a few things to watch for when temperatures dip below freezing:

  • Minimal water flow: When pipes freeze, the ice inside blocks water flow. A completely frozen pipe produces no water flow, while a partially frozen pipe may produce a trickle.
  • Visible frost on the pipe: A frozen PEX pipe may develop a layer of frost around the frozen section.
  • Water damage: Although PEX piping is far less likely to burst than rigid pipes, a freeze can damage the joints and cause leaks.

Related Topic: What Causes Frozen Pipes to Burst When Thawing?

How to Thaw Frozen PEX Water Lines

If you do have a frozen PEX pipe, you need to fix it without causing more damage. Fortunately, the flexibility of PEX pipes allows them to resist bursting, giving you more thawing options. Here are five tips to thaw frozen pipes:

  • Raise the ambient temperature: Pipes freeze when the surrounding air gets too cold. By increasing your thermostat setting, you can gradually raise the temperature high enough for the ice to thaw.
  • Use hot water: Warm up some towels with hot water and lay them on the frozen pipes to slowly melt the ice inside them.
  • Use a hairdryer or space heater: Use a hairdryer or space heater to blow heat on the pipes. Maintain a distance of at least 45 centimeters between the heat source and the PEX pipes to avoid melting or weakening them.
  • Thaw with electrical heat tape: Electrical heating tape can melt the ice inside the pipe. It's also an effective insulator that can be applied before freezing temperatures arrive, preventing pipe freezes.
  • Hire professionals: Licensed plumbers (like your local Mr. Rooter® Plumbing) use specialized equipment and know all the best methods to safely thaw your pipes and repair any damage.

Frozen PEX Pipe FAQs

At what temperature will PEX freeze and burst?

PEX pipes are extremely burst- and freeze-resistant because of their insulation properties and natural flexibility. However, at certain temperatures, even PEX can no longer stand up to the elements. The temperature cutoff for PEX pipes is around -7°C.

PEX pipes can usually handle freezing temperatures around 0°C, but once it grows colder than that, the PEX material can no longer properly insulate the water inside of it. On days and nights when the temperature is expected to fall below -7°C, you should take measures to protect against pipe freezes.

Try insulating your pipes, leaving the taps dripping (only recommended for indoor taps), and emptying outdoor faucets. These measures further reduce the already low likelihood of a PEX pipe freezing and bursting, protecting your home against water damage and other problems.

What Do I Do if a Frozen PEX Pipe Is Leaking at a Crimp?

The pressure created by freezing typically causes PEX pipes to expand instead of break. Although this saves you the trouble of dealing with a burst pipe, the expansion and contraction may cause a leak at the pipe connection. If you identify a leak, turn off the water main. If the leak seems to be caused by a loose crimp, you may be able to fix it with a PEX crimping tool.

However, if the crimp is damaged, replace it with a crimp-style adapter at the end of the PEX pipe. Check your new connection using a Go/No-Go gauge. If you're unsure how to use/install a crimp-style adapter, contact your local plumbing pro for help.

Related Topic: How Should I Prep My Pipes for Winter in Canada?

Find Expert Help for Your Frozen PEX Water Lines

Although PEX can withstand a freeze or two, frozen pipes can cause leaks and water flow issues, impacting your pipes' durability. Your local plumbing professionals at Mr. Rooter can take the stress and worry of repairs off your shoulders. If you need frozen pipe repair services you can trust, call us, or request a job estimate online.