Home Owners: Winter Weather and Water Lines

Water has a unique property in that it expands as it freezes. This expansion puts tremendous pressure on whatever is containing it, including metal or plastic pipes.

Pipes that freeze most frequently are:

  • Pipes that are exposed to severe cold.
  • Water supply pipes in unheated interior areas like basements and crawl spaces, attics, garages, or kitchen cabinets.
  • Pipes that run against exterior walls that have little or no insulation.

Winterizing for Winter Weather

Before the onset of cold weather, protect your pipes from freezing by following these recommendations:

  • Drain water from outside supply lines.
  • Add insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces. Insulation will help to maintain higher temperatures in these areas.
  • Check around the home for areas where water supply lines are in unheated areas. Look in the garage, and under kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Both hot and cold-water pipes in these areas should be insulated.
  • Consider installing heat tape to exposed water lines. Make sure it is plugged in and working.
  • Open closed in spaces like kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing.
  • In extreme weather conditions, running a small stream of water through the line - even at a trickle - helps prevent pipes from freezing.
  • Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night.

Homes without a basement

  • Place safe space heaters under the crawl space to circulate warm air. Caution is advised and keep away from flammable materials.
  • Install heat tape to exposed water lines.
  • Bank snow up around the perimeter of the skirting to add an extra layer of natural insulation

Leaving home during the winter

  • If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55° F. (13° C)
  • Have someone either housesit or check on the home daily and run water – both hot and cold for a minimum of 5 minutes and flush all toilets.