Freezing can be a pretty common problem for homes in Ottawa. When pipes freeze, they restrict running water and this prevents you from doing your normal everyday tasks like cooking, taking a shower etc. Secondly, when water freezes it expands and in a pipe with no room for expansion, it could cause the pipe rupture. This can happen with both metal and plastic pipes. The force of expanding water is just too strong for any type of pipe to withstand.

The pipes in your home most vulnerable to freezing are those with greater exposure to extremely cold temperatures. The most common spots include:

  • Pipes extending along an exterior wall with little or no insulation.
  • Outdoor hose bibs.
  • Plumbing running through unheated interior spaces like the basement or garage.
  • Swimming pool supply lines.
  • Water sprinkler lines.

The first sign of freezing is if you notice no water is coming from the faucet. Here are two clues you can look for to confirm:

  • Frost on the pipe: Look for frost on exposed pipes. This is a sign that your pipes are definitely frozen.
  • Bitterly cold temperatures: If you have pipes on the outside exposed to the elements, they have the potential to freeze when the temperature drops below 32 degrees. The lower the temperature and the longer it lasts, the more likely they are to freeze.

If they do freeze there are steps you can take to safely thaw the pipes and reduce any possible damage. Here’s what you can do:

  • First, take a closer look at the frozen pipe and if it has burst shut off the main water line immediately. This is very important in order to prevent gallons of water from flooding the house when the pipe thaws out.
  • Open the faucet supplied by the frozen pipe to reduce pressure and allow the thawed ice to run out.
  • If the frozen pipe is behind a finished wall, you can try turning up the thermostat or you can use an infrared lamp to heat the pipe through the wall. It’s a lot easier to thaw exposed pipes; you can use a heat lamp, an electric heating pad or even a hair dryer to warm the frozen area. Never use an open flame device.
  • Test all the faucets and check for other frozen areas in the house. If others show the obvious signs of frozen pipes, follow these steps to thaw them out. If the pipe is completely inaccessible or you can’t find the frozen area, turn off the main and seek the services of a licensed plumber.