What Happens When Your Pipes Freeze?

10 Feb

Winter in Canada is the true test of the durability of your home, especially your pipes. Unfortunately, the pipes in your home can freeze in cold weather. This can leave you with no water (hot or otherwise), or it could cause your pipes to burst, leading to expensive property damage. Take steps to protect your pipes from freezing and learn what to do if they freeze.

Below are some important resources to note about preventing your pipes from freezing, and what to do if they do.

Steps to Prevent Frozen Pipes

  • Turn your water off before it gets too cold! It is important to know where to find your main water shut-off valve and how it works, especially in the case of an emergency.
  • Insulate the pipes that are most prone to freezing, especially near the outside walls and in crawl spaces, the attic, and garage. This can be done with foam pipe covers or other methods.
  • Seal air leaks in your home and garage to stop cold air from getting in and freezing the pipes.
  • Outdoor faucets are the first to freeze when winter sets in. Remove any hoses, turn off the outdoor water supply, and let the taps drain during your fall preparations.
  • If your pipes are prone to freezing, there may be a problem you cannot see, and you should consider calling a trained professional to come and inspect your home. They can also provide feedback on how best to protect your home.
  • Commercial water customers: protect fire lines by wrapping all lines exposed to the cold.

What to Do if Temperatures Fall Below Zero

  • Ensure areas that contain indoor water pipes are kept above 8ºC, especially near the water meter. This can be done using space heaters or other forms of insulators. Be sure not to leave space heaters unattended in case of fire.
  • Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage and insulate the space from excess drafts.
  • Open the kitchen, bathroom, and laundry cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing.
  • If leaving for vacation:
    • Close the main valve that supplies water to your internal plumbing. It is typically located in the basement on the foundation wall where the drinking water pipe enters your home. Once the valve is closed, open a cold water tap in the basement to drain any remaining water from the pipes.
    • You may also wish to have someone check your home regularly to make sure that everything is in good condition while you are away.

What to Do if Your Pipes Become Frozen

If you turn on your taps and have no water, the pipes in your home may be frozen. Likely places for frozen pipes include:

  • Against exterior walls.
  • Where the water service pipe enters the home through the foundation wall.

Here are some tips and precautions when thawing frozen pipes.

  • Do not use a torch with an open flame to thaw pipes—this is a fire hazard.
  • Ensure you know the location of your master water shut-off valve. If the pipe breaks, you will need to immediately shut off the water in your house until the pipe is repaired.

Above all, call a professional to help you! They can expertly direct you on how to safely handle the situation without making it worse. Trust us, it will save you time and money.

Steps to Thaw Frozen Pipes While You Wait for Help

  • Turn on a tap in the basement, preferably the cold water faucet in the laundry room.
  • Apply heat to the suspected frozen pipe by warming the air around it or applying heat directly to the pipe. You can use an electric heating pad, hairdryer, space heater, or warm towel or rag.
  • Depending on the outside temperature and the extent of freezing within the pipe, the thawing process could take between one and six hours.
  • Once the pipes have thawed, turn the water back on slowly and check for cracks and leaks.

Are you dealing with frozen pipes? Call Brothers Plumbing today at 800-742-0018. We are happy to help or offer advice on your situation.

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