Dealing with a Frozen Toilet

frozen toilets

Can toilets freeze? The answer is yes, but it may not be that dramatic event that you might be thinking about like when other pipes inside your home freeze and burst.

Toilets can and do freeze all the time. In fact, it can happen quite easily in homes that are not really built to withstand exceptionally cold temperatures, yet experience those types of temperatures from time to time.

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How do toilets freeze?

Think about a house that is built in a southern part of the United States without the typical safeguards in place that usually exist in colder climates. Despite the fact that these safeguards may not be present, these homes still have occasions where they experience temperatures that are well below freezing. When that happens, the water in your toilet can easily freeze up. The difference is that when a pipe freezes it can burst at the drop of a hat. Typically, toilets are not quite as worrisome.

In this article, we will run you through why your toilet freezing probably is not as big of a concern as you may think. Then, we will examine the times when it is a cause for some concern. This includes if the problem extends into the plumbing systems and results in some frozen water pipes. However, identifying the problem is the best first step, so read on if you would like to know more details about this common problem.

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Why a frozen toilet isn’t a big deal

The reason that you can have a toilet that freezes without causing damage to the rest of the home or bathroom is because of the way they are usually designed. More often than not, the toilet is designed so that it can freeze up in cold weather without causing anything to burst. Often, a frozen toilet is not indicative of any extra problems with your plumbing.

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Toilets are typically built to withstand freezing

This is because the lines have enough room for any liquid that is in them to expand without running out of space. When your pipes under your sink freeze, that is exactly what is happening. As the water freezes, it expands and because there is not that much room in the pipes to begin with, things eventually get to a point where the expanding water has nowhere to go and the pipes break. Obviously, when the water thaws out, it starts to run all over the place. When it comes to your toilet, this is not something that usually happens.

Toilets have the necessary space to allow frozen water to expand in the toilet bowl, and thaw out as if nothing has happened. However, if you are interested in preventing this problem, then read on to learn how you can winterize your toilet to prevent it altogether.

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Winterizing your toilet

If you have a home that you will be away from for a few days during a cold snap, you probably don’t need to worry about the toilet freezing. Chances are, even if it does it won’t cause any harm to anything. It will simply thaw out when the weather warms up and unless you were there to witness the events, you might not ever know that it froze up in the first place.

However, if you plan on being away from home for quite some time, you might make the decision to winterize your toilet in order to minimize the chances that anything could go wrong.

It is important to note that winterizing a toilet is not exactly an easy task. Therefore, this is usually something that you only want to do if you are planning on being away for an extended amount of time and you are genuinely worried that a freezing toilet could cause severe damage to your home.

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The Pros And Cons Of using antifreeze

If you want to winterize it, you have to pump all of the water out of the toilet and out of the lines supplying water to it and then fill it with antifreeze to insulate the pipes.

Of course, the substance then has to be removed and flushed out so you can refill it with water before the toilet is ever used. In addition, it can cause a lot of problems if you happen to allow children or pets to be around the toilet while antifreeze is present. Even small amounts of this substance can cause significant harm and in the most severe cases, it can even be lethal.

As you can see, this is far from an easy task, and winterizing your toilet will often end up to be more trouble than it is worth. Luckily, most of the time this is not a big issue, and a frozen toilet will not cause any lasting damage through freezing pipes or a burst pipe, or even flooding to your house. Just be sure to carefully monitorthe situation, and pay close attention if you live in a cold climate.

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What if the problem is in the pipes?

So far, this article has covered what will happen if a toilet bowl or toilet tank is to freeze. Luckily, the result is quite minimal.

However, what if the problem extends to your pipes, a real problem area. Dealing with frozen pipes is a problem of scope that is larger than just this article. However, we will give you a quick rundown on the process of repairing frozen drain pipes in your home:

Basically, the only way to solve this problem is to thaw the pipe out. And while this may seem simple, it is quite a complicated process. Ideally, you want to thaw the pipe before it causes the pipe to burst, which would of course cause more damage.

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How to de-thaw your pipes

Firstly, you want to determine the extent of the problem. If your toilet pipe is frozen, make sure it’s just the toilet line and not the main line that feeds water to taps.

You will then want to locate the frozen pipe. Locating the source of the problem is the first step, and often the frozen pipe is located somewhere you can’t see, such as a crawl space.

As you may have guessed, the best way to fix a frozen pipe is by thawing it, and this is done by applying heat. You can apply heat with a tool like a hair dryer, and continue to apply until the pipe is thawed. You will know whether this is effective if your toilet begins to fill with water.

Using a space heater in the affected area to heat the space and prevent more freezing also helps. Hopefully, the cold weather will be only temporary.

When in doubt, hire a pro

This is a simplified idea of what you can expect if the problem goes beyond a simple frozen toilet. Frozen pipes are best dealt with by a plumbing specialist. You don’t want to run the risk of having your pipes burst, which will be very expensive.

Final thoughts

While your toilet can freeze, it’s really not something to worry over. In reality, you should be much more concerned about your pipes freezing. Thankfully toilets are built to withstand the occasional freeze.

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Learn more about toilets

Now you know the answer to the question “Can toilets freeze?”, but there’s plenty more to know about toilets. If you’re looking into buying a new toilet, first find out if toilets come in different heights and whether all toilet tanks are standard. Then check out our Top 10 Best Toilet Reviews.

If you’re interested in the history of these appliance, read How have toilets changed over time?, When did toilets become common?, How did toilets work in castles?,  and Why did toilets used to be outside?

Then beef up your toilet knowledge even more by finding out if toilets flush backwards in Australia, if toilets can be recycled, and if toilets can explode.

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  1. Jean Ager

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