Anyone who has spent a couple of winter seasons in Saskatchewan knows that it is not uncommon for temperatures to dip into the extreme cold and stay for some time. This cold usually has all of us scrambling for a space heater or extra blankets. An area of the home that is typically forgotten about during these cold snaps is your plumbing system; at least, it’s forgotten about until it freezes, then it’s on everyone’s mind who needs to use the washroom.
If you turn on your tap and there is only a small stream or trickle of water, you have likely stumbled upon a partially frozen water line. When water freezes, it expands in the pipe, and the pressure it creates against the closed tap causes the piping to rupture. Once that area of pipe thaws out, you will have a potentially severe leak on your hands that can cause thousands of dollars in damages and, if unattended, become a breeding ground for mold and mildew.
If you happen to have found a pipe that is frozen or partially frozen, please make sure you use caution when attempting to thaw it out. Leave the faucet open, turn off the water supply to that area of the home, and beginning from the faucet, use a hairdryer and slowly heat the pipe moving back and forth along the pipeline as you move away from the faucet. There may be some reading this wondering why you would use a hairdryer when you could use a torch and heat the pipe more quickly. Every year there are accidents, small and large house fires that are started by people using a torch to do the job.
The goal here is to relieve the pressure the ice is putting on the faucet, so make sure that faucet is open. As you thaw the pipe, if there has been a rupture, you will have a bunch of icy water coming out through the split. Make sure you have some buckets and towels near the area you suspect is damaged. If the pipe is only partially frozen, your water should begin to slowly flow more freely as you return water pressure to that area of the home. If, while you are thawing the pipe, you do notice that it has ruptured or has a split in it, keep the water pressure turned off to that area of the home and call a plumbing professional to repair the damaged pipe. Remember, if one pipe is frozen, there is a good chance it is not the only one. Open other faucets in your home and make sure that they are all flowing freely.
If this occurres more than once in your home it would be a good idea to keep an eye on this area of the home. There are lots of products that can be used to make sure your pipes stay thawed through the winter, but the best thing you can do is to make sure the susceptible area is open and heated.