Frozen pipes in your home – it’s a Canuck thing. We Canadians are a hardy bunch – here in the Greater Toronto Area – Markham, Vaughan, Richmond Hill, North York – we go through blistering hot summers and long, cold winters. Sometimes in winter, our homes cannot keep up with the temperature swings that come and go. This is especially true of water pipes, particularly in older, less insulated houses. They are prone to freezing with very cold temps.
What Causes Your Water Pipes to Freeze?
The most common reason for frozen pipes in your home is proximity to the outside air. Especially when situated near outside walls, with little insulation, the air inside the wall can get cold enough to freeze the water in the pipes. A prolonged cold snap, with temperatures consistently under -10C or lower, for example, the air inside the walls will easily dip below freezing or 0 degrees C. The water in your pipes is not moving; once it gets below zero degrees inside that pipe, it will start to solidify and turn to ice. It’s a real problem.
How to Prevent Frozen Water Pipes
There are some steps you can take to prevent frozen pipes in your home during winter. Quite simply, all you have to do is ensure that they stay above freezing. The easiest solution is to prevent sub-freezing air near your water pipes. That usually means appropriate insulation in and around them. Sometimes, however, there can be roadblocks to achieving this goal. If your pipes are hidden by walls, it may involve some demolition, just to get at the pipes. If you can expose the pipe, you can then attempt to insulate with foam pipe insulation. It comes in long pieces, pre-sliced so that you can stretch it and fit it around the pipe.
Cold air leaking into the wall cavity is what causes the temperatures to drop inside it. Anything you can do to arrest this air leakage can help keep pipes from getting cold enough to freeze. Air sealing can include caulking and sealing all gaps, cracks and holes you can see in the wall cavity. You can also try expanding foam in the cavity. The less ability for cold air to get in, the less chance there is for your pipes to freeze.
If there is any way you can allow warmer inside air close to your water pipes, it will help keep them above freezing during a bad cold snap. This might include keeping cupboard doors open where the pipes are located. Another trick is to allow water to slowly run, or drip, for those pipes that are susceptible. Moving water is much less likely to freeze. Just make sure your sink is wide open, to prevent a flood.
What do Do if Your Pipes Freeze
If you wake up to find one or more of your water pipes frozen, there are several things you can try. But first a word of caution – be very, very careful, whatever you do. Thawing out a frozen pipe can potentially cause huge problems you never dreamed of, in terms of cracked pipes and flooding.
If you know where the pipe is frozen, you might attempt to thaw it in several ways:
Allow warm inside air to get at the frozen pipe
As mentioned, opening cupboard doors in the vicinity of the pipe can raise the temperature enough to melt the water and get the pipe flowing again.
Try to force some warm air toward the frozen pipe
The old hairdryer trick. It can thaw the ice in the pipe, if you know exactly where it’s frozen.
Keep in mind – avoid trying anything which will damage your pipes and cause them to break or burst upon thawing out. You’ll have an even bigger problem and mess on your hands. In any event, always know where your main water cut-off is for your home, in case you need to quickly shut it off.
What NOT to Do if Your Pipes Freeze?
Never, EVER attempt to thaw frozen pipes with an open flame of any kind. This is an extreme fire hazard. There are flammable materials all over your wall cavities, in the vicinity of your frozen pipes. Take no chances. NEVER try to thaw frozen pipes with a flame of any kind. There are horrific stories that emerge every winter due to this kind of action. Don’t try it.
Contact a Professional Plumber for Your Frozen Pipe Issue
If you’ve tried a couple of remedies for your frozen pipes and have not been successful, contact a professional residential plumber. They have the expertise and know-how to get your pipes thawed out and flowing again, without causing damage. They can help you locate the exact location of the freeze-up and correct it, efficiently and safely.
Our office is located in Markham, so if you have an emergency with frozen pipes, and you look for a plumber in Markham, contact us – we would be happy to help.