How to Prevent Burst Pipes in Winter

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The agonies of a cold Canadian winter can be harsh. Slippery roads, endless shoveling, and shorter days are depressing enough without burst pipes in the home causing even more heartache. On bitterly cold days and nights the plumbing in a house is a powder keg of risk that holds one of the most helpless feelings involved with home ownership. With these tips on the prevention of burst water pipes the cold weather doesn't have to seem so intimidating...to your house at least.

How Do Pipes Burst?

When pipes are exposed to the elements or are in a location of the home that is simply too cold, the water inside them freezes. This ice then expands and forces water towards the faucet which is closed. This increasing buildup of water pressure has to go somewhere and unfortunately the escape route is usually a pipe seam or some other vulnerable plumbing area. This generally results in a rupture in a spot where there is little to no ice present, i.e. the warmer areas of your home. Burst pipes can cause thousands of dollars of damage that necessitates not only fixing the plumbing but also replacing damaged drywall, flooring, insulation, furniture, etc.

The Intention for Prevention

It's generally a bad time to worry about burst pipes as water is seeping out of your walls, instead prevention is a much more economically friendly undertaking. A checklist should be created when news reports warn of inclement weather in the coming days:

  • Make sure pipes are insulated – pipes in attics, basements, crawl spaces, outside walls, and other cold areas are the most vulnerable to freezing. Wrapping pipes in these areas with fiberglass insulation can be the slightest factor in preventing them from becoming frozen during extreme cold spells.
  • Seal up the home – It's smart to eliminate cold air from coming into the house not only to prevent frozen pipes, but also to lower utility bills. Stake the perimeter of your home and fill in any foundation cracks with spray foam and have a contractor fix any openings near window trim or as the result of broken siding.
  • Let faucets run – On extremely cold nights any amount of insulation and sealing of the house just might not be enough to keep your pipes safe. In this event it's wise to keep faucets dripping so that pressure doesn't build up and water keeps flowing. Paying an extra few bucks on your water bill for a month is still less expensive than pipe and drywall repair.
  • When leaving – Cold weather can strike at any instant, including when you're leaving for the weekend or going on some sort of vacation or business trip. Turning down the heat can be tempting but it should be kept at a level which keeps the pipes safe. If possible drain your water system to ensure it won't become frozen.

Winter can be hard on families, pets, vehicles, and just about everything else but with some proper care the cold months don't have to be a death sentence to your plumbing. Having a pipe protection plan helps take some of the worry out of winter and helps bridge the gap until spring finally gets here.