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A Comprehensive Guide to Dealing with Frozen and Burst Pipes This Winter

frozen hose bib and pipe

Every winter, homeowners find themselves facing the potential nightmare of frozen pipes. Frozen plumbing can lead to extensive damage and costly repairs if not addressed promptly. That’s why homeowners need to understand the risks of frozen pipes and how to prevent them. Here are some preventative tips for what to do if a pipe bursts in your home.

Why do Pipes Burst When They’re Frozen?

Frozen pipes aren’t only inconvenient, they can pose a serious threat to your home and damage your plumbing system. When water freezes inside pipes, it expands, creating pressure until it bursts.

The aftermath of a burst pipe can be devastating, causing water damage to your home’s walls, ceilings and floors. Beyond the physical damage, there’s also the risk of mould growth, further exacerbating the problem and posing health concerns. Do frozen pipes always burst? Not every time. If you act quickly to thaw frozen pipes, you can prevent them from cracking, leaking or bursting.

How to Avoid Burst Pipes in Winter

Prevention is the key to avoiding the headaches and expenses associated with frozen pipes. Here are some effective strategies to protect your pipes from freezing:

  • Insulate exposed pipes. Insulating pipes in unheated areas of your home, such as basements, attics and crawl spaces, is crucial. Pipe insulation can be found at most hardware stores and is a cost-effective way to protect against freezing.

  • Seal cracks and openings. Seal any gaps or cracks in walls, windows and doors to prevent cold air from infiltrating your home.

  • Keep the heat on. Maintain a consistent temperature in your home, even when you’re away. Set your thermostat to at least 13 C during cold spells to ensure your pipes remain above freezing.

  • Open cabinet doors. When the weather is extremely cold, open cabinet doors under kitchen and bathroom sinks to allow warm interior air to reach the pipes.

  • Let faucets drip. Allowing faucets to drip slowly can relieve pressure in the pipes and reduce the likelihood of freezing. It’s a small but effective measure, especially during extremely cold weather.

How to Thaw Frozen Pipes

If you suspect a frozen pipe, act quickly to thaw it before it bursts. Here’s what you can do:

  • Locate the frozen pipe. Identify the section of the pipe that’s frozen. This is often where the pipe is exposed or runs along an exterior wall.

  • Turn off the water. Before attempting to thaw the pipe, turn off the water supply to that section. This minimizes the risk of flooding if the pipe bursts during the thawing process.

  • Apply heat. Use a hair dryer, heat lamp or electric heating pad to apply gentle heat to the frozen area. Start from the end of the pipe nearest to the faucet and work your way towards the blockage.

  • Use a warm towel. Wrapping a warm towel around the frozen pipe or applying hot water-soaked rags can also help speed up the thawing process. Don’t use boiling water, as it could damage the pipes.

What to Do If a Frozen Pipe Bursts

Despite your best efforts, a pipe could still burst. If this happens, it’s crucial to act quickly to minimize damage. Here’s how:

  • Turn off the water. Locate your main water shut-off valve and turn it off immediately. This will stop the flow of water and prevent further damage.

  • Open faucets. Open all faucets to relieve pressure and drain the water remaining in the pipes.

  • Address electrical concerns. If water comes into contact with electrical appliances or outlets, turn off the electricity to the affected area to avoid electrical hazards.

  • Clean up and dry out. Remove as much water as possible using towels, mops or a wet/dry vacuum. Use fans and dehumidifiers to dry out the affected area to prevent mould growth.

  • Call a professional. While you may be able to handle some aspects of the aftermath of a burst pipe, it’s crucial to call a professional plumber to assess the extent of the damage and make the necessary repairs.

By taking proactive measures to prevent freezing, acting swiftly to thaw frozen pipes and knowing how to respond in the event of a burst, you can safeguard your plumbing system from the potential hazards of winter weather.

Pipe Repair and Residential Plumbing Services in Newmarket, Barrie and the GTA

At Black Forest Plumbing, our professional licensed plumbers are ready to tackle any plumbing problem you have, including frozen or burst pipes. We offer 24/7 emergency services to ensure you get the help you need, when you need it. To learn more about our pipe repair services, contact us today.


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