Fix­ing frozen pipes best left for pro­fes­sion­als

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - HOMES - By Mike Holmes

ONE of the worst things that can hap­pen to your home dur­ing win­ter is a burst pipe. Re­pair­ing or re­plac­ing the pipe is one thing, but the real — and more costly — threat is the po­ten­tial for wa­ter dam­age. What causes a pipe to burst? Pres­sure, and usu­ally that pres­sure is caused by the ex­pan­sion of wa­ter when it freezes. (A clog can also cause a pipe to burst but freez­ing is the usual cul­prit.) It’s im­por­tant to pre­vent frozen pipes by wrap­ping them (in­clud­ing hot wa­ter lines) and drain­ing ex­te­rior plumb­ing lines. Also, turn­ing off the ex­te­rior hose bib is not the same as shut­ting off the line; it must be shut off from the in­side. But what if a pipe is al­ready frozen? In some cases it’s un­avoid­able (for in­stance, dur­ing ex­treme weather con­di­tions and power out­ages). How would you know and what do you do? The first sign of frozen pipes is no wa­ter flow from one faucet or fix­ture (like a shower head), but oth­ers in the house work fine. If one pipe freezes other pipes nearby can freeze too, since they are in the same area of the house. So you should let a lit­tle bit of wa­ter drip from ad­ja­cent fix­tures to keep wa­ter flow­ing be­fore it freezes, and flush toi­lets ev­ery so of­ten. You can do this when it’s ex­tremely cold and/or there’s no power. When peo­ple think of a pipe burst­ing they usu­ally imag­ine wa­ter pour­ing down the walls, through the ceil­ing or onto the floor. But if a pipe bursts be­cause wa­ter froze in it, the home­owner might not know it un­til the frozen sec­tion thaws. Then one day they come home and their house is flooded. If you sus­pect a burst pipe, shut off the main wa­ter valve as a pre­cau­tion. It’s usu­ally in the me­chan­i­cal room in the base­ment, but ev­ery home is dif­fer­ent. Next, call a li­censed plumber. By code, all plumb­ing should be on the warm side of the in­su­la­tion and vapour bar­rier. If not it should be re­run — a big, ex­pen­sive job. A tem­po­rary so­lu­tion is a heat tracer or heat-trac­ing sys­tem. But you will still even­tu­ally need to re­run the pipe, or pipe will freeze again once there’s in­tense cold. Some­times plumbers use a heat tracer or heat-trac­ing sys­tem to get rid of ice blockages in pipes. It has two clamps that are at­tached to ei­ther end of the pipe and then an elec­tri­cal cur­rent thaws the ice. There are also plug-in ver­sions you can get at big-box stores to wrap around pipes vul­ner­a­ble to freez­ing. They typ­i­cally have a ther­mo­stat, so when tem­per­a­tures drop they kick in. Fix­ing frozen pipes is never a DIY job; you must call in a li­censed, ex­pe­ri­enced plumber. They will know which pipes are af­fected and where they are with­out turn­ing your walls into Swiss cheese. If you don’t have a li­censed plumber you can trust in your list of con­tacts, one way to know if you’re deal­ing with a pro­fes­sional is by call­ing. Most rep­utable plumb­ing busi­nesses have a dis­patcher. They will tell you if there are any plumbers in your area and the wait time. If you call and you get some­one’s voice mail, or the plumber picks up the phone him or her­self, chances are they’ve picked up 20 other calls that day and you will be wait­ing a very long time be­fore any­one shows up. You’re bet­ter off find­ing some­one else. Watch Mike Holmes on Holmes Makes It Right on HGTV. For more in­for­ma­tion

visit makeitright.ca.

ALEX SCHULDTZ / THE HOLMES GROUP

Home­own­ers should con­tact a li­censed plumber im­me­di­ately if they sus­pect their pipes have frozen or a

burst pipe.

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