Tips for preventing your pipes from freezing in winter

24 November 2021

The temperature is freezing, cold water is not flowing into the taps, the neighbors still have water ..a pipe is probably frozen! Now is the time to contact a plumber to thaw the frozen pipe.

Why is a frozen pipe dangerous?

Often, it’s just a small section of a pipe that freezes, but it creates a plug preventing water from flowing normally through the pipe. The danger is if the frozen surface grows it could crack or burst the pipe resulting in water damage which could damage your home, condo or business.

There are several possible reasons why water freezes in a pipe, such as a bad weld, a faulty thermostat or, more frequently, poor insulation. Pipes near the outside walls, especially those on the north side, are most at risk of freezing.

Recognize a frozen pipe

There are several signs that a frozen pipe could be the problem, but finding the exact location can still be a challenge. Here are some tips:

  • Check generally cooler places, such as kitchen and bathroom cabinets.
  • Look for frost or try to feel ares that are cold to the touch. There may even be frost on the pipe.
  • If a damp cloth passed over the hose seems to slow down in a specific place, that is a sign that it is colder there.
  • If there is only one room in the house that does not have water, for example the bathroom, ice may be in the pipe circuit connected to it.
  • If the hose is blistered or cracked, it is more serious and you must contact a plumber immediately.

What to do and what not to do with a frozen pipe

Once the frozen area has been identified, you must act without delay and not expect it to thaw on its own, because the longer you wait, the more the ice expands if the cold persists and the risk of cracking increases. The speed of intervention therefore avoids damage, inconvenience and… salty bills.

Depending on the magnitude of the situation, it may be possible to proceed without using the services of a plumber:

  • Start by closing the water inlet to the house and open faucets to relieve the pressure in the piping network.
  • Use a blow dryer, heater or other heat-emitting device to melt the ice at the target location, but do not touch the pipe directly. Note that sometimes you have to be patient or you have to go gradually, because the ice plug could extend several centimeters or there could be ice plugs in other places in the pipe. Do not apply great heat, like that of a heat gun, since steam can explode the pipe!
  • If the pipe is in a wall, put the heat source near the wall, however, it may take longer to get results.
  • In some cases, putting salt in frozen pipes can help.

Tips to prevent a hose from freezing

Fortunately, it is possible to take preventive actions to limit the risk of frozen pipes.

For an outside pipe

  • Use an antifreeze tap outside: this type of tap is fitted with a vacuum breaker, integrated or not, allowing the tap to be completely and automatically emptied.
  • Close the outside valve from the inside valve and open the outside valve so that the water drips completely.
  • Empty the hoses of the automatic sprinkler system.

For a pipe inside

  • Insulate pipes at risk, for example with polystyrene foam.
  • Install a heating cable on the piping.
  • Program thermostats to leave a sufficiently high ambient temperature during long absences.

It is also recommended, in cold weather, to examine the pipes for warning signs of frost and to let a light trickle of water flow to make sure that the water remains in circulation.

Who should pay for a frozen pipe, the owner or the tenant?

Generally speaking, if a pipe freezes due to a building problem or due to normal wear and tear, the owner will be responsible for the damage.

On the other hand, if a pipe freezes out of negligence of the tenant, for example if he went on vacation and he turned off the heating, then it will be his responsibility to pay for the repair.

Find a plumber to quickly thaw a frozen pipe

If you are unable to thaw the pipe on your own or if the situation appears to be worrying (a blistered or cracked pipe), call a plumber immediately. You can find a certified and competent one in a few minutes on ProAssistance. Emergency is our specialty!