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People stay indoors for most of the winter because houses feel like safe havens from the bitter winds and freezing temperatures. Sadly, houses aren’t invulnerable to the ruthlessness of winter. Ice dams can form on your rooftop and send leaks through your attic’s ceiling. The cold will creep through small cracks and gaps so that you’re constantly getting up to adjust your thermostat. Snow can pile up in front of all the exits, forcing you to shovel your way out. One of the biggest problems winter can cause inside your house is a burst pipe.

When the outside temperatures reach below zero, water inside of your pipes can freeze. When the pipes freeze, water flow is reduced or completely obstructed. One of the biggest clues that you have frozen pipes is that your hot water pressure decreases and cold water only comes out of faucets — the hot water pipes are usually the first to be affected.

Another clear sign is that water doesn’t come out of certain fixtures and appliances whatsoever. For instance, you could turn on the tap to full capacity in the laundry room sink and nothing streams out of the faucet. If the laundry room sink is useless but all the other sinks in the house are working properly, the pipe is probably frozen. The issue is more likely to touch areas that have little insulation or protection from the cold like the basement, laundry room, crawl space or garage.

When you notice you have a frozen pipe, you should try to thaw it out as soon as possible because it can burst. Ice expands inside of the pipe and pushes trapped water towards the closed faucet. The pressure builds over time, putting stress onto the pipe until it breaks open. The rupture can send gallons of water spilling out into your house and costing you thousands in damages.

If you notice that a sink isn’t working because of a frozen pipe, turn the tap so that the sink is “on.” Keeping the exit open allows some of the pressure building up inside of the pipe to release so that it won’t push against the pipe walls and break them open. Turn up the heat in the house and let the warm air circulate by opening up interior doors, cabinets and cupboards.

If you don’t want to take a chance on a burst pipe, call up Sewer Squad Plumbing Co to thaw out the frozen one for you — they can efficiently thaw it out, even if it’s hiding behind a wall or inside of a ceiling. Whatever you do, don’t try to melt the ice using an open flame. A safer trick is to warm up the pipe slowly with a hairdryer, but it will take you hours to make any headway.

How do you know you have a pipe burst? If it’s an exposed pipe in the basement, you will notice water spraying into the room and flooding the floor. If the pipe isn’t immediately visible, that’s a bit more challenging. Some basic signs of a burst pipe that you should know in instances when the pipe is hidden from view include mysterious watermarks on ceilings or walls and strange sounds like bubbling, whistling or gurgling.

A persistent bad smell can indicate a burst pipe hidden from view — this is either from sewage back-up or wet fibreglass sitting behind the walls. Either scenario gives off a sulphurous odour like rotting eggs. Any time your nose catches a whiff of rotten eggs in the basement, you should contact a plumber.

Other signs that you are dealing with a burst pipe:

  • Water discoloration
  • Unexplained puddles
  • Change in water pressure
  • Skyrocketing water bills
  • Dampness around walls, floors, ceilings

Cut Off The Supply

Whenever you have a plumbing emergency like a burst pipe, a blown washing machine hose or an overflowing toilet, you need to cut off the supply of water. You should run to your home’s main shut-off valve and turn it completely off or the water will continue to spill all over the floor, ruining your valuables and flooding the floor space.

The valve is one of the home features that every resident should educate themselves about. It’s similar to a fire extinguisher or a first aid kit. You will ignore its existence most of the time, but you’ll want to know exactly where to look when you’re in a bind.

The valve is often installed on the lowest level of the house, near the water meter or the water heater. It’s either a gate valve that needs to be twisted clockwise to be turned off or a ball valve which needs to be pulled perpendicular to the attached pipe. Don’t be afraid to call up a plumber if you can’t seem to find the valve.

Call The Plumber

Once you have the water shut off, you should call up Sewer Squad for help. We will locate the source of the leak and use the latest plumbing technology for dealing with burst pipes to safely remove and replace them. If you have any other frozen pipes that could be at risk of bursting, our experts can thaw them out before another mess happens.

You can call any time of day. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Whether it’s the middle of the night or a busy holiday morning, you can count on us to come over and fix your plumbing problems.

Talk To Your Insurance Company

The Insurance Bureau of Canada states that water damage from sudden and accidental pipe bursts should be covered on all home insurance policies. Residents will be excepted from coverage if they have left their home unattended for more than four days during the winter because it is the riskiest time for burst pipes. As long as you weren’t on an extended vacation, you should be covered.

After you’ve called up the plumber, you should prepare to make a water damage claim to your insurance company. Here are some things that will help get your claim approved:

  • Photos of the area and furniture that show obvious water damage
  • An inventory of your damaged possessions
  • Any receipts that prove the value of certain damaged possessions
  • A log summarizing the event. Mention when you discovered the burst pipe when you shut off the water when you called the plumber and other important details

Deal With Water Damage

You have to deal with water damage quickly because high-levels of moisture bring about mould and mildew. According to the Government of Canada, mould and mildew can grow within 48 hours of moisture build-up — this is why you need to take immediate action after a burst pipe or a flood.

Once the insurance company has inspected the area to see evidence of water damage, you need to get to work. Throw away any ruined furniture that can’t be easily restored like mattresses, couches and lounge chairs. If the floor is carpeted, remove the carpeting and wait to replace it. You want to be sure that the flooring is properly sanitized before adding on another layer.

Bacteria thrives in moisture, so you have to dry the area after clearing out all of the damaged items and furnishings. Use a mop or towel to soak up any standing water left on the floor. Set up electric fans and dehumidifiers to dry out the area in a hurry. Normally, you can open up windows and doors to let in fresh air — this may not be a good long-term plan during the winter, especially if you want to keep the cold air away from your pipes.

Remember to wear a respirator mask, rubber gloves and safety goggles when you tackle the area. The standing water could be contaminated with chemicals, fecal matter and other dangerous substances. Meanwhile, the air could be filled with mould spores. It’s better to protect yourself while cleaning than to make yourself ill.

If you spot any signs of mould over the next few days, you should call professionals to tackle the job. Home expert Mike Holmes recommends that when you experience a flood, the best way to get rid of mould is with the help of a remediation company certified by the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration. Your insurance company may help with the costs of a remediation company, so ask before you make the call.

Prevent It From Happening Again

Once you deal with the water damage and restore the area, you should focus on preventing the problem from ever happening again. There are plenty of preventative plumbing tips that you can follow to make sure your pipes don’t freeze, burst or flood your home. Click here to learn more about the Sewer Squad and what they can do for your home so you don’t have to worry about big plumbing problems during the winter season.

When you know how to recognize the signs of a burst pipe and how to react, you can limit the extent of the destruction. Jumping into action to stop the flow of the water supply, calling the right professionals to restore the scene and dealing with your insurance are three ways that you can curb the damage. The plumbing emergency won’t be a walk in the park, but it won’t be an irreversible disaster, either.