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All about Frozen and Burst Pipes

The dread of any homeowner in the wintertime is facing a flooded home from a burst pipe. While expert remediators can perform restoration after frozen pipes burst, it should be no surprise that it’s better to be proactive than reactive in these situations. Consider this article a primer on freezing and bursting pipes and a handy guide to keeping frozen pipes from flooding your home.

Why Do Frozen Pipes Burst?

If you leave a bottle of water in the freezer overnight you will find in the morning that it has become swollen by a large mass of ice, assuming the bottle hasn’t ruptured entirely. Water in your pipes does the same thing: it freezes and expands. If there isn’t enough room in the pipe, the ice can build up and start exerting pressure on the casing. As the pressure builds, cracks can form in the pipe. This can lead to leaks or, in the worst case, the frozen pipe bursting completely and flooding your home.

Hazards of Burst Pipes

As with most forms of flooding, there are three main areas of concern whenever a frozen pipe bursts.

Water Damage

Regardless of whether you are dealing with a minor leak or full-on flooded home, water damage to the home’s structure and your property remains a concern. Water is very good at seeping into hidden areas and causing the decay of flooring and wall materials over time with the damage going unseen until it is too late. Water will also ruin carpeting, damage furniture, wreck appliances, and generally cause a great deal of headaches and financial hardship. When it is a burst pipe that floods your home, the additional expense of getting the infrastructure replaced and inspected comes up as well.


Mould thrives in dark, damp areas with organic material. Cellulose, which is found in flooring, in walls, and in some carpets, readily absorbs water and can quickly become havens for fungal spores. This is one of the reasons why small leaks are still problematic—mould doesn’t need much moisture to get started. Mould spores can cause skin and respiratory irritation as well as allergy symptoms in some people. Some strains can also cause potentially life-threatening illnesses if inhaled. In other words, mould is best stopped early after a flood.

Electrical and Fire Damage

Water and electricity do not mix well. This applies just as much to floodwater meeting your home’s electrical systems as it does to tossing a toaster in the bathtub. Electricity is dangerous and surprisingly volatile, and wiring is only safe because it gives the volts and watts a controlled path to follow. Adding water to the mix causes electricity to conduct in unexpected directions, setting off sparks and possibly shorting out electronics. These sparks can also set fire to insulation or drywall materials or even just dust in the immediate area.

Signs of a Frozen Pipe

There are not many signs that appear when a pipe has frozen, but it is important to stay vigilant in order to keep that frozen pipe from turning into a flooded home. Be mindful of the following during the winter months, especially when temperatures drop below freezing (0 degrees Celsius/32 degrees Fahrenheit).


Pipes will develop frost when moisture on the surface freezes. This provides a visual sign that water in the area can freeze and, consequently, that the water in the pipes may be icing over as well. Frost doesn’t automatically mean the water in the pipes has frozen, but it should raise a warning flag and be motivation to start taking steps to warm up the plumbing.

Water Pressure Problems

Ice will naturally obstruct any water that tries to get through the pipe. Depending on how severe the blockage is, you may face water pressure issues ranging from minor to total loss of pressure. The pipes may also produce a mysterious “whistling” noise as water is carried away from the home, which is a result of a partially restricted flow.

Signs of a Burst Pipe

A burst pipe does not instantly lead to dramatic home flooding. Well, it can, but there are usually warning signs first. The following can indicate the presence of a burst pipe in your home and should warrant inspection and investigation.

Loss of Water Pressure

Burst pipes can impede water flow similar to how frozen ones do. With a burst pipe, water pressure can be erratic or chronically low.

Mysterious Puddles

A burst pipe is sometimes better envisioned as a leaking pipe. Water will seep out into the home and form unexpected damp patches or wet spots in the surrounding areas. In addition to unexplained puddles, be watchful for wet rings in the ceiling or damp patches in the drywall.

Clogging Problems

A burst pipe can cause effects similar to a clog, depending on where in the plumbing the fracture is. This can lead to recurrent drainage or toilet backups, slow-flushing toilets, clogged drains, and so on.

What to Do When a Frozen Pipe Bursts

Even despite the best precautions, it is possible for a frozen pipe to burst and flood your home. Upon recognizing the problem, the following steps should be taken.

Shut Off the Water

The flooding will continue and damage will worsen until the water is fully removed. Cut the problem off at the source by shutting off your home’s water supply. This usually involves turning off the main valve in your home. If, however, it is not safe to do so—such as if the floodwater is in the way and contaminated or has reached electrical sockets—then you should keep your distance and try calling your water company.

Call a Professional

Remediation teams are skilled in restoring homes after frozen pipes burst, so don’t be afraid to give on a call. These professionals will help shut down your home’s water if needed and assist in cleaning up, repairing or removing damaged structural elements, dry out your possessions, and more.

Call the Insurance Company

It can be overwhelming to face a flooded home, but you shouldn’t forget to contact the insurance company. The sooner they start processing your claim, the sooner you will get the funds you need to recover.

Contact Flood Services Canada for Professional Frozen or Burst Pipe Flood Clean-Up and Restoration

Prompt and timely action is critical in any home flooding situation. Contact professional water damage remediation specialists as soon as you can to minimize harm and maximize how much damage can be prevented. Flood Services Canada’s quick-response teams of professional remediators will drain, dry, and save your property.

Contact us at 416-302-2107 for more information about frozen and burst pipe restoration, or use our emergency hotline at 416-999-3930 to get our rapid-response teams deployed to your location.

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Chad Vanvari

Chad Vanvari has over 20 years of experience as a cleaning & restoration professional. He started out in Montreal, establishing a commercial carpet cleaning company in the early 1990’s. By 2001, Chad had relocated to Toronto and now had extensive knowledge and experience in responding to fire/water related emergencies. He has been instrumental in the cleanup of several catastrophic floods. Currently, Chad is the president and owner of Flood Services Canada, a 24/7 emergency service restoration company.