The first thing to know about a frozen pipe is that too heavy an application of heat will cause it to burst. The reason is that the heat causes the ice with which the pipe is filled to expand. The correct way in which to thaw out a pipe, is to fill a bucket with very hot water and put some heavy cloths in it. Wring out the cloths and wrap them around the pipe. As soon as the cloths chill, reheat them. In a few minutes you will hear a crackling sound which indicates that the ice within the pipe is breaking out and melting. The mild heat of the cloths is far better than the violent action of a blow-torch. Another good method, if you are able to use it, is to place an electric heater near the pipe.
Frozen pipes need not burst while being thawed out, if you use the proper method. Great heat, too rapidly applied, is dangerous.
In the basement of your house you will notice heavy black pipe, with joints in it at four or five foot intervals. It is usually along one wall or suspended from the ceiling. This is the house sewer, and the drains from all the fixtures in the house flow through it to the public sewer under the street, or to the cesspool or septic tank if you live in the suburbs where there are no public sewers. All house sewers have a clean-out plug at the end which can be removed, and a snake or long rod shoved through to clear it out. House sewers also have what is known as a house-trap, and it is here that wash-cloths and other large obstructions are most liable to lodge. The trap always has clean-out plates on the top of it, which can be screwed out and the inside of the trap exposed.
The house sewer, if properly installed, is a safe-guard against sewer-gas, or odor from cesspool or public sewer in the street.