We have a shower on a second floor with a frozen cold-water pipe. It seems to happen every time the temperature falls below 15 degrees F.

Previously I fixed this by taking the plate off around the shower control, where there's some access past the shower tile, and jamming a hair dryer or heat gun in there. But that's a hassle, and I'm worried about the heat acting on the plastic of the shower control.

Currently I'm trying a space heater in the shower with the shower door closed. (There's a nearby sink which isn't frozen, so I think the ice is limited to pipe pretty close to the shower.)

Could I shove some heating tape into the hole near the control as a solution? I wouldn't be able to ensure it was right up against the pipe, though.

I also thought of forcing room-temperature air in there. Is that a reasonably way to try to solve the problem? I don't have a vacuum with reverse, though. What kind of tool could I buy to do that...a cheap air compressor?

For a long term solution, I'd like to put insulation around the pipe, or between the pipe and the exterior wall (it's on the NW corner of the house), but there's pretty much no access at all, unless one were to rip out the shower tile. (No, I didn't own the house when this silly situation was created.) Of course, as the comment below points out, one way to deal with this long-term is to go through the wall from the outside.

  • run the shower's hot water for a while, if it's not frozen. when some cold starts to come, turn to cold and let that run a while.You might also want to run the sink water for a bit if it's the closest working fixture. As for not ripping out the tile, there are two sides to that wall.
    – Ecnerwal
    Commented Feb 14, 2016 at 16:37

3 Answers 3


You obviously have a severe cold zone where the shower is, what's under the shower" You are going to need to get room temperature air flowing in where the piping is before it turns colder and the pipe bursts when your pipe spits open. If there's a space behind the shower where the pipes are for cutting an opening top and bottom of this space to allow circulation through this space will help or if possible a heating run off the hot air duct discharging from under this space with an opening at the ceiling height to let the air flow through can most likely solve it if you leave the fan run all the time. Poorly designed washroom is the problem with no thought or thoughts to taking out or away any cold air zones when building this house is the only issue. Some builders should stick to fishing for a livelyhood not building houses or really bad designs followed behind by paid off inspectors and the end is always the same, new home buyers need to invest a pile of cash to repair their new houses.

  • Right, it could be the pipe flows from the branch point (which also goes to the sink) under the shower. But there's absolutely no place to cut behind the shower, and the floor next to the shower is also tile. The only places to cut from the inside are on the exterior-facing wall next to the shower (which would have to go through studs, which makes it kind of pointless), or from the ceiling in the room underneath. The house was originally built in 1937 (I'm in MA, where that makes this a pretty young house!), and this is part of an addition, built who knows when. Commented Feb 14, 2016 at 18:08
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    If you can get to the underside of this shower and using something safe to make sure you cut no wires or water lines then try to see if you can open say a 8x12 hole that you can put a heating grille over and it might just let enough heat up there. It would work 100% better if there was some kind of exit poit at the top for air to flow in at the bottom and out at the top through a convection current
    – Richard
    Commented Feb 14, 2016 at 18:48
  • If you could remove one or two tiles if small at the top near that outer wall and cut open the size of those tiles or if smaller so be it might just solve your troubles permanently with some air flow. Going from the room underneath would be best but close to the wall where the pipe is frozen.
    – Richard
    Commented Feb 14, 2016 at 18:51
  • Right, what I wanted to do last year was cut a hole underneath, through the ceiling of the floor below. But that's a "nice" room and my wife wasn't thrilled about the idea. My plan was to cut a really small hole at first, to peak around, then a bigger hole, and make it into a kind of access panel. Commented Feb 14, 2016 at 18:56
  • @user1071847 that nice room will be ruined if you don't get this solved correctly. The access panel will help a lot.
    – Dano0430
    Commented Mar 29, 2017 at 14:59

For the short term, go buy, borrow or steal a shop-vac before the pipes burst. And stop trying to burn your house down with a hair dryer.

Until you fix this long term, always leave the cold water tap on the faucet running just a tiny bit during the winter.


Gotta open the wall and put in heat tape and better insulation.

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