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Preventing frozen pipes in your home

Nov 19, 2020 6 minute read

Preventing frozen pipes in your home

If you’re Canadian, you’re probably used to cold weather in the winter. Winter can be a great time of year! You can partake in fun winter activities like skiing, snowshoeing or tobogganing. And if you don’t like the cold weather, you have a great excuse to hunker down for a movie marathon with a hot chocolate.

Winter comes with a few things to be aware of when it comes to your home. Cold weather can lead to frozen pipes. A frozen pipe can lead to a burst pipe. Burst pipes are a common type of insurance claim. Luckily, frozen pipes can be easily prevented. Keep reading to learn more about how frozen pipes are caused and how to prevent them.

What causes frozen pipes during winter?

Simply put, frozen pipes are caused by extremely cold weather. The exact temperature that causes frozen pipes varies depending on how insulated the pipes in your home are. Pipes that run along exterior walls and have little to no insulation are more likely to freeze. Frozen pipes are most common in unheated areas like basements, attics, crawl spaces or garages.

Why worry about frozen pipes in your home?

Here’s something you might have forgotten from fifth grade science class: when water freezes, it expands. The expansion puts added pressure on your pipes. When the pipes can’t take the pressure anymore, they crack or burst. The cracked or burst pipes can lead to water spillage which can lead to water damage. This can lead to costly damages.

Tips for preventing frozen pipes in your home

Burst pipes can cause a lot of damage and can be extremely costly. Luckily, it’s really easy to prevent frozen pipes. Here are a few tips:

  • Cover all faucets outside the house.
  • Drain, remove and store any outdoor hoses and store them inside during the winter months.
  • Colder areas of your home are more likely to lead to frozen pipes. Consider insulating areas like your attic and basement.
  • If you have a pool, be sure to drain it in the winter. You’ll also need to drain the water from sprinkler supply lines.
  • Keep your kitchen and bathroom cabinets open – this allows warm air to circulate around the plumbing.
  • Never let the temperature in your home fall below 12 degrees Celsius. This includes at night and if you leave your home for a vacation. Paying a little more on the heating bill is still cheaper than paying for water damage.
  • When the temperatures get extremely low, consider running your taps to keep the water moving. Even if it’s just a trickle, it can prevent a frozen pipe.
  • Insulate the pipes near the exterior walls of your house. You can use snap on foam insulation or heat tape.

How to detect frozen pipes in winter

If you turn on the faucet and nothing comes out, or if it’s reduced to just a trickle, frozen pipes may be the culprit. Check to make sure the water is on and look for leaks. If everything else is normal and it’s exceptionally cold outside, you most likely have frozen pipes.

To be sure, you can also look for visual confirmation. If your pipes are visibly covered in frost, it’s likely that the water inside is frozen.

What to do if you have frozen pipes

If you have frozen pipes, don’t panic! There are some steps you can take to thaw the pipes and reduce the chance of damage.

  1. Turn off the water. This will prevent flooding and water damage once the pipe thaws out.
  2. Turn on the faucet that’s supplied by the frozen pipe. This will reduce the pressure and enable the thawed ice to run out of the pipes.
  3. Try turning up the heat to thaw the pipe.
  4. If you can access the pipe, try wrapping an electric heating pad around it. You can also use a hair dryer, a space heater or even towels soaked in hot water. Do not use any type of open flame device. This can cause serious damage to your pipes and is very dangerous.
  5. Continue applying heat until the water pressure has returned to normal.
  6. Check the rest of the faucets in your home to see if any of your other pipes are frozen. If you have one frozen pipe you may have others.
  7. If you cannot access the pipe because it’s behind a wall or inaccessible for some other reason, or if you try the steps above and they don’t work, you’ll have to call a plumber. They have specialized tools that will help thaw the pipes.

Home insurance coverage for frozen pipes in winter

Every home insurance policy is different. Some cover water damage and some don’t. Some cover certain types of water damage but not others. Some policies may cover frozen pipes damage while others don’t.

If you live in a particularly cold part of Canada it’s crucial to speak to your insurance broker to understand what coverage you have.

It’s also crucial to note that if you leave your home unattended for an extended period of time (usually a month or more), your home insurance will most likely not cover any damages that occur while you’re gone.

Consult with a BrokerLink insurance expert about home insurance for frozen pipes

  1. At BrokerLink, our brokers have extensive expertise in home insurance. We can help you get the coverage you need.
  2. You can complete an online quote in just a few minutes and we’ll call you back at your convenience.
  3. Call our toll-free 1-800 number to get started.
  4. Visit one of our 140+ community branches across Canada.

Pro Tip: Frozen pipes that burst not only mean pipes that need fixing, but it could mean damaged walls or ceiling, clogged bathrooms and even flooded basements.

FAQs on preventing frozen pipes

Is it possible to unfreeze a frozen pipe?

Yes! If you discover a frozen pipe in your home there are a few things you can try: turn up the heat in your home, use a blow drier, put a space heater near the frozen pipe, cover the frozen pipe in an electric blanket or towel soaked in hot water. Never use an open flame to unfreeze a frozen pipe. If you can’t access your pipe or these tricks don’t work, call a plumber.

Should I inform the local authorities if I plan to vacation away from my home during the winter?

If you are leaving your home vacant at any time throughout the year, you should ask a trusted neighbour or friend to keep an eye on the house. This is especially true in the winter when frozen pipes can cause significant damage. Note that if you are away from your home for a month or more, most home insurance policies will not cover any damage that might occur while you’re gone. If you’re taking an extended vacation, consider asking a friend to stay in your home or hire a house-sitter.

How can I determine if my existing home insurance policy covers frozen pipes?

That’s easy! Call your insurance broker! Your insurance broker will answer any questions you have about your insurance policy, including questions about coverage for frozen pipes.