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Avoid Frozen Pipes This Winter

Winter is right around the corner, and your house exterior and interior is about to get a beating. Even during milder years, winter in South Western Ontario usually means bitter cold and harsh winds. When temperatures plummet, the risk of your pipes freezing and bursting skyrockets. This disastrous event can create not only a big mess but costly damage to your home if they burst.

Burst pipes are one of the most common causes of property damage during frigid weather and can cause thousands in water damage. According to the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety, this damage can cost easily $5,000 or more.  For homeowners in this region, there are a few simple things that you can do now and during the winter to protect your pipes and avoid a catastrophe.

Pipes at Most Risk

The pipes most at risk are those in unheated interior spaces such as basements, attics, and garages, but even pipes running through cabinets or exterior walls can freeze. The good news is that pipe insulation is reasonably low in cost and readily available at your local home building center. By using insulation liberally, you can protect any vulnerable pipes. 

You should also take measures to keep your water running in addition to keeping your pipes warm. Research conducted by the Building Research Council at the University of Illinois shows that the “temperature alert threshold” is 46 F (8Celsius), especially if you have uninsulated pipes running through an uninsulated space.  

The City of Toronto reminds residents how to prevent pipes in their home from freezing. The site offers homeowners some advice and tips to avoid the risk of pipes freezing and bursting during the winter months.

Also, read your home policy carefully because Canadian home insurance policies often exclude water damage due to freezing.

Fundamental Tips

  • Keep garage doors closed, especially if there are water supply lines in the garage.
  • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate the plumbing. (If you have small children, be sure to remove any harmful cleaners and household chemicals.)
  • Let the cold water drip from a faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe (even at a trickle) helps prevent pipes from freezing.
  • Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature during day and night. Again, during a cold snap is not the time to set back the thermostat at night to save a few bucks on your heating bill.
  • Leave the heat on and no lower then 12 celsius if you plan to be away during the cold weather. 
  • For the long-term, add insulation in your attics, basements, and crawl spaces. Insulation will maintain higher temperatures in those areas. And to prevent drafts, seal cracks and openings around windows, doors, and at sill plates, where the house rests on its foundation.

Space Heaters

If you need a space heater, use it safely. If you need supplemental heat, you can add a space heater to a room where pipes may be at risk. Although it’s not recommended to use a space heater in a bathroom, if you need one, make sure it’s plugged into an outlet with a ground-fault circuit interrupter. Do not use an extension cord.

When to Call for Help

If you are unable to locate the frozen area, if the frozen area is not accessible, or if you cannot thaw the pipe, it’s time to call a licensed plumber to help. Don’t take the risk of the problem turning into a disaster.