Do not defrost pipes with fire. Not even once! As it gets colder across the country, we see more and more stories of fires resulting from the use of propane torches and other forms of fire to unfreeze pipes.
It’s a terrible idea all around, and even plumbers don’t like doing it, Apartment fires happen almost every day from defrosting pipes with fire. Just because you have renters insurance doesn’t mean you should take that risk!
Do Not Defrost Pipes With Fire – They’re Not Your Problem!
“Landlord shall maintain plumbing in good repair” is a standard requirement of most leases, though it may be stated in other words. It’s incumbent on you as the resident, of course, to use reasonable care and act prudently to prevent the pipes from freezing in the first place. But with the reasonable care in the world sometimes doesn’t stop pipes from freezing, whether due to temperature or design that didn’t contemplate those temperatures.
But if you’ve used due care to prevent the pipes from freezing, it is not your job to unfreeze them. Your responsibility is to immediately alert the property management of the same so that they can take appropriate actions using trained employees. If you start using a propane torch to unfreeze your pipes, there’s a strong chance of you catching the building on fire. Call maintenance, and let them deal with it.
What Happens When You Defrost Pipes With Fire?
Basic plumbing work on pipes that weren’t even frozen sparked the Avalon at Edgewater fire in Edgewater, NJ. Hundreds of people were displaced and the entire building burned to the ground because one maintenance person didn’t pay attention and didn’t report the fire immediately.
Two families are working with their Ocean, NJ renters insurance to coordinate their loss of use coverage so they have someplace to stay after maintenance workers started an apartment fire by using torches to thaw pipes in a crawl space. They apparently didn’t even realize they had started the fire until it was out of control.
There are additional risks, as well, beyond setting the building on fire when you thaw pipes with flame. Depending on the sort of pipe you’re working with, it can crack, break, or otherwise fail under the stress of the heat. In cast iron, that crack can quickly extend the entire length of the pipe. Copper can deform and cause leaks in unexpected places along its length, or worse.
Please, do not defrost pipes with fire or thaw pipes with a torch. It’s just not worth it. Call maintenance, let them do their job.