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Frozen Water Lines - Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Question:  How do I know if my water line is frozen?
    Answer:  Open the tap closest to where the line enters your house and if there is abnormally low flow or none at all then the line could be frozen.  Call a plumbing contractor right away.
  2. Question: Can I thaw the lines myself and how do I do that if they become frozen?
    Answer: We recommend that you call a licensed plumbing contractor to do this; attempting to thaw or repair a frozen line if you do not have experience, could create a leak and cause damage, which may create an insurance issue for you.
  3. Question:  Does the City cover the cost of thawing or heating a line.
    Answer: No the City does not cover these charges. It is the responsibility of the property owner to maintain and/or replace the portion of the water service located within the building, and between the building to the property line. However, if the City water mains are frozen on the City property (outside and beyond your property line) the City is responsible for these costs.
  4. Question: If I let the water tap ‘trickle’ to help keep the water line from freezing, who pays for the water usage costs?
    Answer:  This is a cost to the homeowner.  However, the cost is much less than the cost to repair a damaged water line or valve. The risk is higher for property owners who have previously experienced frozen services.
  5. Question: How long should I run my taps and how fast?
    Answer: A steady stream of about 6 mm or ¼ inch (approximately thickness of a drinking straw) should be sufficient and it should run all night and day until the extreme cold temperatures rise. Please note this measure is not necessary if you have never experienced frozen lines in the past.  Again, we recommend you call a licensed plumbing contractor to assess your personal situation and provide further guidance.
  6. Question: How can I warm my basement or crawl space if it isn’t heated?
    Answer:  Use a small micro-furnace or box heater with a thermostat to control temperature so that it does not get lower than 5 degrees above zero. Be sure to use caution, especially around flammable materials.
  7. Question: How can I reduce the risk of frozen water pipes?
    Answer: When extremely cold weather hits, the City suggests the following:
  • Leave kitchen, laundry, or bathroom cabinet doors open to allow for warm air circulation around water pipes, especially those that are located on exterior walls. Please ensure all chemicals, cleaners etc. are out of reach of your children and family pets.
  • Maintain a minimum household temperature of 550F or 130C
  • Ensure outside faucets are drained and turned off.
  • Use specially designed foam pipe insulation to wrap pipes located near exterior walls and in crawl spaces or attics.
  • Seal air leaks in your home and garage and close the garage door to keep the cold air away from pipes close to the area.
  • If you are going away, shut off the valve in the basement and drain all the lines by opening taps and have someone check your home frequently.
  • If you are experiencing issues with frozen waterlines speak with your plumbing contractor to discuss lowering your water service to a depth of at least 2 metres and ensuring waterlines on exterior walls are protected/insulated.

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