Helpful tips for Frozen Pipes

 frozen pipe photo

We have been receiving many calls about frozen pipes so we pulled together some helpful tips.




Ways to tell if the your pipes are frozen

  1. Faucets may not have any water coming out.  Now how’s that for an obvious tip!
  2. There might be hot water coming out but not cold or the opposite, cold but not hot.
  3. It can also be just one fixture in a house that is affected and may just seem to be a problem with that fixture.
  4. You may see frost on the outside of the pipe.
  5. There will be a change in your plumbing system and it usually happens over night or when the fixtures are not being used for a long period of time.
  6. It usually happens when there has been a sudden change in temperature and there is a steady wind.

Ways to prevent pipes from freezing when we have cold snaps and steady winds

  1. Keep all rooms in your home at the same temperature.
  2. Make sure your pipes are well insulated and shielded from any potential breezes.
  3. Check your home for cracks that may allow a breeze to affect the pipe. Cracks in bricks, mortar, siding and drywall can easily let the cold air in.
  4. Keep garage doors shut as much as possible (pipes can freeze in minutes).
  5. Run all fixtures and taps in the home a couple times a day even for 10-15 seconds just to keep the water moving.
  6. Open cupboard doors where piping is located to get it to room temperature.

In extreme cases, keep the taps at a trickle. Water that is moving has a less of a chance to freeze.

Ways to unfreeze pipes without using open flame or a thawing machine

  1. Turn the heat in the home up by about 10 degrees or close to 80 degrees and wait. Make sure to leave the fixture open so the water will run when it starts to thaw.
  2. If you have any fixtures working in the home, turn both the cold and hot water on fully and this can help radiate heat through the lines and loosen the ice block. Remember to open the tap or fixture that is affected and keep an eye on it.
  3. If you know where the blockage is and can get to it safely, use a hair dryer on the pipe (be careful as they may become very hot).
  4. Space heaters may need to be used in such places like crawl spaces and under kitchen cupboards. Again be careful and monitor closely.

What to do when pipes start to work again.

  1. Run the fixture until the flow looks normal.
  2. Check for any leaks or breaks that may have happened. Look and listen in case it’s happened behind the walls.
  3. If you notice any leaks, make sure you shut off your home’s main water shut off to stop any further damage. Then call a plumber.
  4. It is more than likely that this will happen again so it’s a good idea to find the source or reason why the pipe froze and take care of it.



What a broken pipe looks like from freezing

It can be split length ways down the pipe or the fitting will have popped right off.


A couple of recent calls we received:

We had a customer that had a shower and a sink on the second floor where just the hot was not working and the cold was working fine. We asked them to run the hot water everywhere in the home while keeping the taps opens that are not working. They ran the hot for about 5-7 minutes called us back and we advised them to wait and give it about 30 minutes to work and then call back. They called back only about 10 minutes later and all was running perfect. We advised them to make sure there were no leaks in the home.

Another call for a customer that thought they were having an issue with their kitchen faucet because the cold side was not working. We had this customer leave their cabinets open and turn the heat up in the home. They opened the taps and waited. About four hours later they called back and all was fine and there was no leak.

For more helpful plumbing tips visit here.

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17 Responses to “Helpful tips for Frozen Pipes”

  1. alfie yip says:

    Can you please advise if water frozen in them new plastic pipes will case a plastic pipe to rupture like in the photograph of the copper pipe shown above. Yes, water in a plastic pipe will freeze if the pipe gest cold enough, but what kind of subsequent damage will result. Assume that the fawcett and any shut off valves are not in the area of the house where the extreme cold will penetrate. I believe the new style of plastic pipe is called PEX or IPEX or something like that.
    I have to install some more hot and cold water supply pipe and I need to decide if I will run traditional copper pipes or the new fangled PLEX pipe. Have seen the stuff but have not ever had no experience with the stuff. |Believe it has been around in popular use for something like 5 years here in This, Our City of Toronto.
    Have to go to the Tire Store, or to Home Deepot or Lowes or Rona for to learn more about this PEX pipes and associated fittings.

    Thank you in advance. The end signed Alfie 888, new customer of Direct Energy for furnace maintenace here in North York.

    • Dave says:

      Hi Alfie,
      Copper, PVC and PEX pipes will all freeze and crack under the right (or wrong!) conditions. They have different characteristics but they are all susectible to freezing. I’m going to check in with our plumbing team and see what they suggest and I’ll let you know. one thing to consider is wrapping your pipes with pipe insulation, it isn’t the perfect solution but it helps.

  2. Brian says:

    what about the plastic pipes they use in the new houses?

    • Dave says:

      Hi Brian,
      The plastic pipes have been approved for residential use and should be treated similar to copper pipes. By that i mean that they are still susceptible to freezing and cracking as well as splitting.

  3. Vic Tyrer says:

    Dishwasher water lines (both supply and drain) are prone to freezing on very cold days for two reasons. They are close to the floor and exterior wall which loose heat and they are separated from the rooms air flow. On vey cold nights leave the dishwasher door open. Leave the furnace blower on as well to circulate air throughout the house.

    In extremely cold weather I lift the suspended ceiling tiles in my basement/rec room that are adjacent to my main floor water appliances. I will also remove the kick plate on the dishwasher for the duration of the extreme cold. I learned this trick about 25 years ago and have never had a problem.

  4. Rafeh says:

    What’s the best practice to avoid freezing pipes when leaving on vacation for about a month? Should I shut off the main water valve for the house?

    • Dave says:

      Hi Rafeh,

      I’ve had a lot of questions about this so I’ve put together a list of things you should do.

    • Christine says:

      RE: Turning the water off while away on vacation.

      If the water to the home is turned off at the main water valve, will that affect the boiler?

      • Dave says:

        Hi Christine,

        Here’s the worst case scenario – if the water supply was shut off and the boiler sprung a leak, the boiler itself may catch fire if the auto shut-off mechanism is not functioning properly.

        And if the auto shut-off mechanism is functioning properly and turned off the boiler, there will be no heat going to the house and everything inside the house will freeze and the pipes will burst.

        We recommend that you have someone visit your home to check to make sure everything is ok periodically and I believe your insurance company asks that as well.

        If you are going to be away for a long period of time or have no one checking, we recommend you have someone properly “winterize” your home.


  5. Steven Jaunzems says:

    I have had frozen pipes that were located next to the outside wall. My solution is that these pipes next to the outside wall is foam insulation around the pipes. But after the drywall is up this makes it very difficult to correct without major renovation. New builders should do this insulation right from the start of building could save a lot of freezing problems.

  6. owen says:

    Considering insulation of exterior walls where some copper pipes run and where we had a copper pipe rupture during the cold snap.
    The walls has the pink insulation; it did not cover the pipes completely.
    I am now considering placing rigid foam insulation between the wall and the pipes…separating the pipes from direct exposure to the exterior walls.
    Would this additional insulation make a big difference?

    Would you consider liquid foam around the pipes a improved option?

  7. Kim says:

    I have a cottage and we do turn the water off everytime we leave. In December there was a ice storm and the power went off and then the heat did not come back on. When we went up again there was not water and the water pump also did not come on (we have a well) How will i know if my pipes are just frozen and not broken?

    • Dave says:

      Hi Kim,
      You can do an air pressure test on the lines as well as a visual inspection to see if there are any breaks. Other than that you have to turn the water on slowly and listen for leaks. Good luck,

  8. Shawn says:

    Hi Dave, we recently came back from vacation and our pipes were frozen. After thawing we have our water back running and everything is seemingly fine. I want to make sure none of our pipes cracked though and have a slow leak or damaged and possibly burst in future. However, the frozen pipe is behind our drywall and is also insulated by spray foam. Do you have any suggestion on how to double check if there is any damage?

    • Dave says:

      Hi Shawn,

      I’m sorry to hear about the frozen pipes. That’s never fun to come home to however I’m glad to hear that everything is working again. Unfortunately there isn’t anyway to tell if a pipe has damage in the walls until it fails. I wish I had better news to put your mind at ease.


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