Bone-chilling temperatures have arrived, providing the perfect opportunity for your home’s pipes to freeze. When they do, you’ll temporarily have no water. What’s more, there’s the possibility they’ll burst, resulting in flooding that can ruin your belongings, cause mould and mildew, as well as structural damage to walls, floors and ceilings.
When nighttime temperatures are forecasted to drop below minus 10 C, you should take the following five precautionary steps to avoid unnecessary disaster, as set out by the City of Toronto.
1. Raise the temperature in your home one or two degrees.
2. Open kitchen, bathroom and laundry cabinet doors to allow warm air to circulate around plumbing.
3. Unscrew any hoses, turn off the outdoor water supply and let the taps drain since these faucets are the first to freeze. Ideally, this should be done in fall before winter‘s wrath arrives.
4. Close doors to your garage if there are water supply lines in it.
5. Run a pencil-thin stream of water to ensure some movement of water in pipes that might be vulnerable to freezing. The stream should be left to flow 24 hours a day until daytime and nighttime temperatures have returned to normal seasonal averages. Ensure the drain is kept clear of debris to prevent overflowing or flooding.
Additional preventive measures include insulating pipes most prone to freezing, especially near outside walls and in crawl spaces, the attic and garage. This can be done with foam pipe covers available from building supply or home improvement stores. Also, seal air leaks in your home and garage to stop cold air from getting in. Check around windows and doors, electrical wiring, dryer vents and pipes.
Likely places for frozen pipes include against exterior walls or where the water service pipe enters the home through the foundation wall. In the event they burst, it’s important to know where your main water shut-off valve is located and how it works in order to quickly stem the water flow.
To thaw pipes that have not yet burst, apply heat to the suspected frozen pipe by warming the air around it or applying heat directly to the pipe. You can use an electric heating pad, hair dryer, space heater or warm towel or rag. Do not leave electrical devices unattended, or use kerosene or propane heaters, charcoal stoves or any open flame to thaw a frozen pipe. Depending on the outside temperature and the extent of freezing within the pipe, the thawing process could take between one and six hours. Once the pipes have thawed, turn the water back on slowly and check for cracks and leaks. It’s best to first start with turning on a tap in the basement, preferably the cold water faucet in the laundry room.