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8 ways to prevent your pipes from freezing in the winter

Cold weather can cause your pipes to freeze and possibly burst. Water expands when it freezes and can cause your pipes to rupture because of the extra pressure. This usually does not happen where the ice is but further down the pipe between the ice and a faucet.

Exposed pipes are at risk for freezing and wind chill can cause pipes to freeze when cold air gets into unheated spaces through cracks and even small holes for cable and phone lines. Pipes in spaces like attics, basements and garages are susceptible to ice blockages.

You only need to be concerned about water supply pipes, not drain pipes, because supply pipes are only about an inch in diameter. It is much easier for them to freeze. Drain pipes are at least one and a half inches or larger in diameter. Although they carry water, they do not hold it and are not pressurized so they will not burst if some freezing occurs.

Speak to your Western Financial Group insurance broker

Ensure you check your policy wording or contact your local insurance branch if you are going to be away from your home for an extended period of time. Each of our insurance providers has different requirements that may need to be met in order to have coverage in the event your pipes do freeze and damage occurs.

How to stop your pipes from freezing

The best way to stop your pipes from freezing is to keep them at a temperature above zero. It is easy to protect your pipes from cold winter temperatures and you can accomplish it by using as many of these tips as possible.

Cover crawl spaces

Temporarily seal any crawl spaces using foam cut to the size of the vents. This will reduce the amount of cold air that gets into the crawlspace and will reduce the risk of your pipes freezing.

Put heating tape on exposed pipes

You can apply electrical heating tape to exterior pipes or pipes that are in unheated spaces. There are two different kinds. Manual heating tape needs to be plugged in and unplugged as needed. Self-monitoring heating tape has a sensor that will turn it on only when the pipe needs more heat.

Close garage doors

Make sure garage doors stay closed if pipes run through the garage.

Open cabinet doors

Opening kitchen and bathroom cabinets allows warm air to reach the plumbing and will help stop your pipes from freezing.

Let faucets drip

Allow faucets connected to exposed pipes to drip with cold water. Even a small trickle of water running through the pipe helps prevent it from freezing.

Do not lower the thermostat

If you are experiencing temperatures that are colder than normal, do not try to lower your utility bill by lowering the temperature. If you will be away, keep the thermostat at 12 degrees Celsius or higher.


Insulate basements, crawl spaces, and attics, and seal cracks around doors and windows.

Signs that your pipes are frozen

  • If you turn the water on and barely any comes out, your pipes are frozen.
  • Check exposed pipes for frost; if they are frosty, they could be frozen.
  • Odors coming from drains or faucets mean that pipes could be blocked by ice.

What to do if your pipes are frozen

If any frozen pipes have burst, call a plumber to avoid a flood. If they are frozen but not broken, take these steps to thaw them.

  • Turn the water off at the main shutoff valve.
  • Turn on a faucet so that water can flow through the pipe when the ice begins melting.
  • Heat the frozen section of pipe with a space heater, hairdryer, or an electric heating pad.
  • Apply heat until the water pressure returns.
  • Check all faucets in the house in case any other pipes have frozen.