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3 Things to Know About Freezing Water Pipes

3 Things to Know About Freezing Water Pipes

By Ardith Stephanson

Extreme weather often causes extreme circumstances. Frozen water pipes are one example that can be disastrous for your home.

When the weather turns cold, the danger of having your pipes freeze and burst increases. In Canada, we get some harsh cold snaps that can cause a threat to water pipes. Nobody wants to deal with a flood of water in their home - at any time of year - but in the winter it can really make a mess.

Here are 3 things you need to know about freezing water pipes, and what to do if it happens.

1. What Causes Water Pipes to Freeze

The cold weather that makes you hide under heavy blankets also chills the water in your pipes. Think about placing liquid in a freezer. The same principle of expansion applies to your water pipes. If the pipes get cold enough, the water begins to freeze and expands. If a pipe is weak, it can burst as it freezes. 

One of the most common causes for a burst pipe is an outside line or one in an uninsulated area. For instance, if you have an outdoor shower or a line to a garden, a drop in temperature can cause the water in the pipe to freeze and the pipe to burst. Before winter arrives, you should turn off and drain any outdoor water line or one that sits in an uninsulated area.

Otherwise, pipes that are in cold areas of your home could be at risk when there are extremely cold temperatures for extended periods of time. Your home’s insulation and where the pipes are located are also factors that can create risk of burst pipes. Outside walls, older homes, or pipes in basements and garages can all be at risk when the winter temps get nasty.

If you turn on a tap and no water comes out, or the pressure seems to have dropped suddenly, you may have a pipe that is beginning to freeze. You need to inspect your system to see if your water is turned off, or if there is a leak somewhere that has caused the drop in pressure. If not, you may have a frozen pipe. 

You can try to thaw the pipe on your own, or call an expert to help find and resolve the problem before it’s too late.

2. How to Prevent Freezing Water Pipes

Frozen pipe prevention is important to ensure you don’t suffer from burst pipes. Besides draining your outside water lines, there are several other preventative steps you can take to prevent frozen pipes:

Leave the heat on: Rather than set your thermostat to a cooler temperature when you’re at work, or overnight, keep it at a warm enough temperature to keep all areas of the house warm. A few days running the heat at 21 or 22 Celsius is better than risking the damage of a frozen and burst pipe.

Keep a door open or closed: If you have an area of the home where it gets cold, keep the doors open to ensure warm air circulates. That includes closet and bathroom doors, attic and basement doors, and may even include cupboard doors on an outside wall, such as under your sink. If you have pipes in your garage, keep that door closed to keep warm air in.

Let a tap drip: Water is less likely to freeze when it’s running, so you can leave a cold water tap on a slight drip to help prevent freezing. Your bathtub is a good option, but be sure the drain is open before you head to work for the day. 

Turn the water off when you leave: You can also shut off the water main and run taps to empty your pipes, especially if you will be gone for a long period of time. If you know you’ll be gone and it will be bitterly cold, see if you can have a friend or neighbour check your house on a regular basis.

Keep the house warm even when away: If you know the weather will be cold when you are away, keep the thermostat warm enough to prevent cold temperatures in the home. Setting the temperature just a few degrees lower than when you are home is a good rule of thumb in the winter months.   

Check around your house regularly: This is a good practice for any home, as you should check for leaks that let cold air in - think about your electrical wiring, dryer vents and other entry points into your home. Checking spring and fall is a good habit. If you find gaps, fill them to prevent freezing pipes.  

Make changes before there’s an issue: If you have exposed pipes, or you’ve had an issue with frozen pipes, get a professional to insulate water pipes in unheated areas of the house, or relocate exposed pipes to protect them from freezing.

3. What to Do if a Frozen Water Pipe Bursts  

Despite your best efforts, there are times when a water pipe will freeze and may even burst. 

If you catch it before it bursts, you can attempt to thaw it yourself, or call a professional to help. It’s especially important to get a professional if you don’t think you can thaw the pipes safely without causing damage, or if you don’t know where the pipes are, or you can’t get to them. Trying to do it yourself could be dangerous. 

Otherwise, your first step if a pipe bursts, is to turn off your water at the main line. Keep the faucet nearest to the frozen pipe turned on so the water can escape as it thaws. If there’s a risk of water near any electrical equipment or outlets, turn the electricity off too.

Clean up water as well as you can, and then attempt to find the source of the frozen and burst pipe so you can fix it. It’s also important to check other faucets and pipes, as there could be more than one pipe under duress, leaking, or burst.

If you’re concerned about unseen water damage, behind walls, floors and ceilings, then contacting an expert like got mold?™ is an important step. Water inside of your home will become contaminated as it sits and could potentially cause health concerns due to bacteria. Furthermore, any kind of water damage can lead to the danger of mold, another serious health hazard.

Contacting the professionals at got mold?™ is the best option If your home experiences any kind of burst pipe or other water damage. With professional industry specific tools, we will be able to map out where the water went.  

The Bottom Line

Nasty cold snaps are inevitable in a Canadian winter. Extreme cold weather causes issues around our homes, such as frozen and burst water pipes. 

By reviewing our 3 things to know about freezing water pipes, you can take steps or prevent damage to your home. If a burst pipe happens, you can trust the experts at got mold?™ to provide you with advice and resources to deal with flood damage, water damage, mold remediation, asbestos abatement and more. 

Contact us today at 1.888.909.MOLD [6653] to find out more about our services in Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba.

Ardith Stephanson is a freelance writer and journalist who shares some of her own stories at

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