With some of the coldest weather we've seen this winter in Ottawa, I've been fielding some calls and emails from family, friends and clients regarding frozen water pipes. If this is happening or has happened to you take heart that you're not alone, although that thought will not solve the problem or make you feel all that much better about your situation.
As I'm sure you can appreciate, you have some cold air leaking in somewhere. Typically your water lines should be located in interior walls keeping them as far away from the cold as possible. If your pipes froze, chances are some section aren't and either relocating them or ensuring you have proper insulation will be on your to-do list. For the time being here's a few things to do.
Drain your water lines completely.
If you don't know how to do this you should learn. Every homeowner should be able to do this.
Open up the cabinets around the frozen tap.
This will allow some of the warm air within your home to potentially warm up the frozen section. On top of this you can look to place a space heater in this area to speed up the thawing process. If you have physical access to the frozen pipe you can place hot water bottles on the frozen area.
Do not attempt to thaw the water line with a blow torch.
Not only can this weaken the frozen pipe and it's fittings but you run the risk of creating a house fire. Just ask the guy in Gatineau who tried this technique if getting $100 000+ in fire damage was worth saving the $$$ from bringing in a professional plumber.
So now that you've attempted to solve the problem but the pipes are still frozen it's time to call in the professionals. Your plumber (or mine if you need a name and number) has been busy recently with this exact problem. They will come over and attach an electrical device to the frozen water line which then sends a current warming up the pipe and thawing the freeze. No risk of fire and hopefully no burst pipes if you got a plumber over in time.
Until you've solved the overlying problem of where the cold air is coming from you should take precautions while the cold lasts.
- Keep a constant drip at night time. Moving water has less of a chance to freeze.
- Place a space heater in the affected area to raise the temperature.
- Run your taps before you go to bed and immediately when you wake. Both hot and cold. Hot water lines have a greater tendency to freeze (against logic right?) because we tend to use the cold line more often (toilet, sinks, etc)
Hopefully we have endured the worst of mother nature for the year but if it's not at least you'll be prepared in the case of this emergency. Oh and if we do get another cold snap with -40 temperatures I'll be on the first plane to Colombia and returning when it's over.