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Frozen water pipes

Preventing frozen water pipes

Steps to take before winter

  • Turn off the water to outside taps from inside your house. Leave outside taps slightly open to allow any remaining water to expand when freezing. Remove and drain hoses.
  • Insulate areas of your home containing water pipes, including crawl spaces, garages and attics.
  • Insulate water pipes (both hot and cold) near the exterior walls, especially those facing north. Many home improvement stores carry foam sleeves with a lengthwise slit, or bands of insulation that wrap around the pipes.
  • Weather-seal your windows.
  • Check for air leaks around electrical outlets, dryer vents and pipes. Seal these leaks with caulking or insulation to keep cold air away from your pipes.
  • Know where your control valve is (usually near your water meter).

When winter arrives

  • Heat areas of your home containing water pipes so that warm air will prevent them from freezing.
  • Set the thermostat no lower than 12°C (55°F) at night and when you are away.
  • If you plan to be away from home, verify your insurer's stipulations for special arrangements. (ex: drain the plumbing, arrange to have your home checked daily to ensure the heat is working). Damage to indoor plumbing caused by freezing is seen as preventable. If you do not make these arrangements, you may be responsible for the clean-up bills. If there is a leak, you will be responsible for the water bill, which can be costly.
  • Keep the garage door closed if there are water pipes inside.
  • Open cabinet doors to allow heat to get to uninsulated pipes under sinks and appliances near outside walls.
  • If a pipe freezes and bursts, turn off the control valve immediately.

After a pipe that was frozen has been thawed

After a pipe that was frozen has been thawed, we recommend running one of your cold water taps all the time to prevent the water pipe from freezing.

The flow should be about as thick as a drinking straw, about enough to fill a four litre pail (e.g., ice cream) in four minutes.

If the pipe was frozen on the:

  • property owner's portion of the water pipe, you are responsible to pay the full amount of the water and sewer charges.
  • City's portion of the water pipe, we will credit the water bill up to a maximum of 1.5 cubic metres per day (1,500 litres).

You are required to ensure we have two water meter readings – one at the time we advise you to start running water, and one when we advise you to stop running water. If you are eligible for a credit and you haven't provided these readings, you will be billed for the full amount of the water and sewer charges.

Thawing frozen pipes

You can try to thaw the pipe yourself, call a plumber, or ask us to do it.

Do it yourself

  1. Step one – Find the frozen pipe.
    • Often the frozen area of the pipe will be frosted or have ice on it. If the pipe is frozen solid, it may have a slight bulge or a crack.
    • If you have a poorly insulated crawlspace, the frozen pipe may be in this area.
    • If none of the taps works, the problem may be:
      • at the water meter or where your water service enters your home through the foundation, or
      • in the pipe between the water main and the meter (if this is the case, call us)
  2. Step two – Thaw the pipe.
    • Thaw frozen pipes as soon as possible.
    • Open the tap closest to the frozen pipe. Start by warming the pipe as close to the tap as possible, working toward the coldest section of the pipe. Wrap warm (not hot or boiling) towels or cloths around the pipe. The key to safely thawing frozen pipes is to apply slow, even heat.
    • Keep the towels warm and keep the water tap turned on until full water pressure is restored.
    • If the pipe leaks when it is thawed, turn off the master water valve and contact a licensed plumber to repair the leak.


  • Do not use a propane heater or open flame device (ex: blow torch, candle, butane lighter) to thaw the pipe.
  • Do not use space heaters, heat guns, hair dryers, heating pads or any other electrical appliances to thaw frozen pipes. Leaking water could cause an electrical shock.
Last updated: October 18, 2018

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