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Frozen Pipes: The Winter Nightmare

Frozen pipes are, without a doubt, a Canadian homeowners nightmare. So, to borrow a phrase from a popular TV show – “Winter is coming.” and, just like the Starks of the North are warning us with these words, we need to prepare.

Preparing our homes for the rugged winter is an annual job for most Canadians but one area that can often be overlooked as we “batten down the hatches” is our plumbing. In most cases, piping in Canadian homes tends to be well-insulated but if you’ve never checked now is the time to do so – before the snow flies. A burst pipe can be a messy and expensive inconvenience.

Most home experts recommend winterizing your outdoor faucets by shutting off their water flow during the colder months to keep them from freezing and possibly causing a burst pipe. This is a simple and straightforward step to take when doing your usual preparations for winter – and hey, it’s not like you’re going to be watering your lawn, so why not? You can usually find the shut off valve to the outdoor water supply along the piping in your basement. All you need to do is remember to turn it back on when the warmer weather returns.

Beyond your outdoor faucets, however, it’s a good idea to be sure the rest of your water pipes are insulated as well. In most areas of your home, this is likely not an issue as your pipes will be located within insulated walls. One area to place close attention to, however, is your garage.

The issue with the garage is that, unlike the rest of your home, it is not conditioned. So, it gets pretty cold in there in the winter. Pipes running through your garage may not be as protected from the cold as those in other areas of home. The other problem with your garage is that you might not spend too much time in there – particularly in the winter. A burst pipe in your garage might go unnoticed for quite some time, leading to higher water bills, damage to personal property and loss of water pressure.

This is especially important if you happen to have exposed piping in your garage. These pipes should absolutely be insulated. If you need to insulate exposed piping, be sure to secure the insulation well with tape to ensure air doesn’t seep through any cracks. You can do the job on your own or, if you’re not 100% confident and want peace of mind, a plumbing professional can expertly install and seal insulation to prevent leaks and damage to your pipes.

The final area you want to consider is any part of your home that shares a wall with an unconditioned space like your garage. Say, for example one of your bathrooms shares a wall with your garage. The pipes behind that wall are at greater risk for freezing. If you think you might need more insulation in these spaces, it’s a good idea to consult a professional.

Of course, in a pinch, you can always use this simple but not very eco-friendly tip to avoid frozen pipes: turn your faucet on just slightly to keep the water moving. This will prevent water from collecting and freezing in your pipes.

Remember, now is the time to check your pipes and have them properly winterized if necessary. A plumbing professional can do the job quickly and inexpensively and could save you from costly repairs and higher bills in the long, cold winter.