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The last thing you want after a lovely long winter vacation is to come back to find burst pipes in your home. In bitterly cold places across Canada, this is not uncommon. What causes pipes to freeze? How do you prevent this from happening in the future? 

To explain simply, the pipes tend to freeze when the temperature falls sharply in the Canadian sub-zero temperatures. The frozen water expands substantially in volume by about 9%, making it impossible for the pipe to hold that much pressure. As a result, the pipes break open.

This is why homes need to be well insulated or proper precautions need to be taken when you are away to keep the pipes from bursting. A few simple plumbing tips can make a big difference in keeping your pipes in good condition. 

Why Do Pipes Burst in the Winter?

You may be surprised to know that pipes don’t freeze because of ice expanding in the winters. It has more to do with the pressure build-up inside the pipes. The molecules in frozen water crystallize and expand considerably which takes up more space than its molecular composition in liquid form. As a result of the expansion, the water is pushed towards the faucet where there is little to no ice. If the faucet is turned off, water pressure builds up in the tiny space between the frozen ice and faucet, causing the pipe to burst.

Pipes that are at the greatest risk of rupturing are those that are located in the unprotected areas outside the building insulation or areas that are not sufficiently heated, such as basements, attics, and crawl spaces. 

A few simple plumbing tips can help keep them from bursting:

  • Fibreglass insulation or foam sleeves keep the pipes warm, letting the water flow, preventing rupture. 
  • It helps to keep the faucet open slightly to let a trickle of water flow through consistently. This prevents pressure from building up to dangerous levels.
  • Standard outdoor faucets can be replaced with frost-proof versions.
  • Turn up the room heating or turn on fans to blow heat into colder areas of your home.
  • Open cabinet doors, closet and pantry doors to let warm air reach the exposed pipes below the sinks.
  • Close the garage door to retain heat. 
  • Remove the garden hose from faucets located outdoors, such as the garden. If a hose is connected, even a frost-proof pipe can rupture. 
  • Use a hairdryer to heat vulnerable pipes in basements or crawl spaces, leaving the faucet on to melt frozen ice in the pipe and have it flow out. 

Call a professional plumber to assess your home and suggest other ways to winter-proof your pipes. Aslan Plumbing is Winnipeg’s top plumbing and drains services company. For any pipe emergency or drain cleaning services, give us a call.