How to thaw and prevent frozen pipes in your home

Wednesday Feb 06th, 2019


In the month of January, the City of Toronto received more than 200 calls from residents because their water wasn’t working. According to a release from the City, more than 90% of the water issues were due to frozen pipes on private property. 

With another week of temperatures dropping well below -10 degrees Celsius, we want to share some tips to thaw and prevent frozen pipes in your home. 

Let’s start with how to prevent frozen pipes because if you follow these steps, there’s a better chance you won’t need the thawing tips. 

Turn off outdoor water: You’re likely not using your outdoor water supply through the winter, so just unhook everything and turn off the supply. Outdoor pipes are the first to freeze, so if this isn’t already done, you should take care of it right away.

Keep water running: This may go against all your instincts, but when temperatures drop below -10 degrees Celsius, open tap for a pencil-thin stream to flow continuously until temperatures rise. It may seem like a waste of water, but if your pipes freeze and burst, you’ll have even bigger issues. 

Make it hot: Increase the temperature of your home by a degree or two. Not only will this help prevent your pipes from freezing, but it might make you a bit more comfortable, too. 

Open cupboards: Before going to bed, open your cupboards and pantry doors in the kitchen, bathroom, and laundry room. This will allow the warm air to circulate around the pipes more freely while temperatures plunge in the evening.   

Insulate pipes: Pipes that are outdoors or in places like your basement close to exterior walls are prone to freezing. You can insulate these pipes easily by purchasing thermal insulation at your local hardware store. 

Now let’s talk about thawing your frozen pipes.

First, you want to identify the frozen pipe, then open a tap, preferably the cold water in the basement. Now you want to gradually apply warmth to the pipe using a heating pad or a blow dryer. Never use an open flame like a torch or lighter. This is a fire hazard and is very dangerous. 

Don’t expect an immediate fix. If it’s still really cold outside, this process could take hours. Ideally, the heating process shouldn’t be left unattended, so get one or two other people in your family to join you and thaw the frozen pipe in shifts if necessary. 

Once the pipe has thawed, turn on a couple taps to get the water flowing, then you want to check for leaks. When pipes freeze, the structural integrity can be compromised by the fluctuating temperature. If you notice a leak, turn off your water and call a professional.     

We hope these tips help you prevent your pipes from freezing this winter, and we hope you don’t need the thawing tips! For more info, visit the City of Toronto’s website.  

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