Frozen Pipes

Learn how to prevent water pipes from freezing in the winter, and how to thaw them if they do.

Why Pipes Freeze

Water has a unique property in that it expands as it freezes. This puts pressure on whatever is being used to hold, or contain the water. No matter the strength of the container, expanding or freezing water can cause stress and breakage.  This includes your household pipes.

Pipes that freeze are typically:

  • Exposed to severe cold, like outdoor hoses, swimming pool supply lines and water sprinklers.
  • Pipes in unheated interiors, like basements and crawl spaces, attics, and garages.
  • Pipes that run against exterior walls with little or no insulation.

Before cold weather hits, protect your pipes from freezing by following these easy tips:

  • Drain all water from swimming pools and water sprinklers.
  • Remove, drain, and store outdoor hoses. Close valves supplying outdoor hoses.
  • Add insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces. Insulation will help to retain heat in these areas.
  • Check for drafts around basement windows, especially those near water pipes. 
  • Check your home for other at-risk pipes and insulate them when possible. 

How to Prevent Frozen Pipes

  • Keep garage doors closed at all times, especially if there are water supply lines nearby.
  • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinets to allow warm air to circulate around the plumbing.
  • During very cold snaps, consider letting cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water, even at a trickle, helps to prevent pipes from freezing.
  • Keep your thermostat set to the same temperature both day and night.  Your heating bill may increase slightly, but it could save you from a costly repair bill later on. 
  • If you plan to be away for an extended period of time, consider leaving the heat on in your home (set no lower than 13 C).

How to Thaw Frozen Pipes

  • If you turn on your faucet, and just a trickle of water pours out, suspect a frozen pipe. Common spots include exterior walls of the home or where your water service enters the home through the foundation.
  • Keep the faucets open. Running water through the pipe will help melt ice in the pipes.
  • Apply heat to the frozen pipe by wrapping an electric heating pad around the pipe, holding a hot water bottle to the pipe, blowing a hair dryer nearby, wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water, or using a portable space heater.
  • DO NOT use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater or any other open flame device.
  • Apply heat until full water pressure is restored. 
  • Call a licensed plumber.  When it doubt, it’s always wise to leave the work to those professionally trained to do so.