How to avoid & thaw frozen water lines ( below -20°C expected all weekend)

Happy Valentines day – unfortunately it is not so happy for many Ottawa homeowners.

This morning we received over 40 phone calls from homeowners with frozen pipes due to this deep cold. So I sent out an email letting our regular customers know what they can do to avoid frozen pipes and if they do freeze how to thaw them themselves (of course we are here to help if you run into problems or need assistance). But I thought this information would be good to share with our website visitors as well.

So here is what you need to know with regard to avoiding frozen pipes and how to thaw them if you do get frozen pipes.

How to avoid frozen pipes and minimize damage to your pipes:

–  Raise the house temperature & open cabinets under sinks and where water lines run – the heating bill will cost you more for a few days but the money it will save you in potential water damages from burst pipes is worth the additional heating cost.

–  When you know it is going to go below -18°C you may want to trickle cold water in your taps that are closest to outside walls (moving water is less likely to freeze).

–   When you know it is going to go below -18°C and you have had problems with frozen pipes before you can trickle hot water (& cold) in your taps that are closest to outside walls (the hot water lines usually run close to the cold water lines and the heat from the pipes can help prevent the cold water pipes from freezing).

How to Thaw Frozen pipes:

–  If your pipes freeze over in the next few days here are a few things you can do to try to thaw them yourself:

Warning: before you start thawing frozen pipes know where the shut off valve is in case pipes leak or burst during thawing.

Step 1: try running hot water in the tap where the cold water is no longer running (sometimes slowly running the hot water for a half hour or more is enough to thaw the frozen cold water lines next to them).

If step 1 doesn’t work you can try one of the following:

Option 1: put hot water bottles or a thick cloth soaked in hot water over the frozen pipe & replace as they cool off.

Option 2: you can use a hair blow dryer (if using a blow dryer be sure to place it away from potential water to avoid electrocution & avoid setting it in areas where it can overheat & cause fires)

Option 3: you can use an electric space heater in the room (do NOT use space heaters IN cabinets or under areas where it can either get wet causing potential electrocution or in small spaces where it can cause a potential fire). Never use a gas or propane space heater indoors – the carbon monoxide can kill everyone in your home!

When thawing, start at the end of the pipe nearest the tap and work away from it never use a naked flame of any kind

Again be aware that if pipes have frozen the water has expanded in the pipe making the possibility of leaking pipes as they thaw. Be prepared to turn off water and have plenty of towels handy.

Burst water pipes – what to do

If a pipe bursts:

–  Turn off the main water shut off immediately.

If the shut off valve does not work open all the cold water taps away from the leaking area to slow water flow to the leak.

–  If you cannot stop the water:

Call city of Ottawa Water works to have your water main turned off:


If you need professional help we are available 24 hours a day at 613-224-0041

or you can chat with me on our website (see the chat box in the corner – that’s me!).

If you call after business hours leave a message on the emergency phone line and a plumber will call you back as soon as


We wish you all the best during this cold freeze and hope you and your home stay warm and dry.

Serving YOU is all we do!

Kay Francis

Manager at Francis Plumbing and Heating

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