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Frozen Pipes - Now What?

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When it’s cold outside homeowners can find themselves at risk of home maintenance disasters.  One of the most common claims filed by our homeowner clients involves damage from water.  Pipes freeze and burst during cold snaps and could be destructive, inconvenient, and expensive. In fact a tiny 1/8 inch crack in a pipe can unleash 946 litres (250 gallons) of water per day, which will cause major flooding and structural damage to the home and will put the property at risk for mold damage.

Unlike many disasters homeowners face, frozen pipes are largely preventable by taking a few simple precautions.

What Causes Frozen Pipes?

Quick drops in temperature, poor insulation, and thermostats set too low can all contribute to the freezing of pipes.  When water within a pipe freezes it expands becoming ice. This puts pressure on the pipe from the inside, resulting with a crack or a break in the soft copper or plastic pipe. 

Prevention and Attention:

  • Before the cold arrives, take time to ensure the pipes in your attic, crawlspace, basement, or those close to exterior walls are insulated with heat tape or approved heat cables.
  • Check for air leaks near pipes; seal, caulk, or insulate any leaks to keep the cold out and the heat in.
  • Ensure you and your family know where your water shut off valve is and check that it is in good working order.
  • Keep the temperature in the home at 15.5°C minimum (60°F), even when out of town.
  • Open cabinet doors to allow heat to reach pipes under sinks or appliances near exterior walls.
  • Run all faucets daily to ensure they are functioning. If necessary use a hair dryer to warm pipes and thaw a freeze. Be sure to turn on the tap before thawing the pipe so the water has somewhere to go upon thawing to relieve the pressure. If you cannot unthaw the pipe or locate the freeze, contact a plumber.
  • If you experience a break, turn the water off as soon as possible, turn on the faucets, and contact a plumber and your insurance company for instructions.

Steps For Vacationers

While away from home during the heating season (winter months), it is a requirement of most insurance policies that you have someone to check your home daily to ensure that no major issues have occured. Alternatively, you can turn your water off while you are away.

At CAA Saskatchewan, we want you to return from your vacation both calm and relaxed, not to a major home disaster!