Deep freeze may pop your pipes!

    QUEBEC, Jan. 16 /CNW Telbec/ - Extreme cold has caused a flurry of calls
from CAA-Quebec's members, and not just for its Emergency Road Service. The
organization's home advisory experts are also receiving calls for advice on
how to deal with frozen water pipes.
    Act quickly! It's important to act quickly; a frozen pipe could burst. If
the problem pipe is visible and accessible, the situation is less worrisome,
but this is not always the case. Pipes near the exterior walls of a residence
(especially north-facing walls) are the most likely to freeze.
    Find the problem... The search for the problem may be reasonably brief if
you are familiar with the structure of the house and know which areas may be
less well insulated than others. Focus on areas that tend to be colder: for
example, closets, kitchen cupboards, or bathroom cupboards. To find the exact
spot where the pipe will need to be heated, look for frost formed on its
outside or, failing that, run a moist towel or rag along the pipe. The
material will "catch" slightly when it hits the frozen area.
    Thaw the pipe, quickly and safely. The ideal tool is a hair dryer. Turn
on the tap, and slowly move the dryer closer to the frozen area, in a sweeping
movement to distribute the heat evenly. There are alternatives: a small
radiator (mechanical ventilation or radiant-heat type), heat lamp, or even an
ordinary incandescent light bulb of sufficiently strong wattage. Making sure
it does not come into direct contact with the pipe nor, of course, with any
flammable materials, place the heat source near the pipe and leave it there
for a few minutes, then gradually move it closer to the frozen section of
pipe. It sometimes takes patience: a frozen pipe will not necessarily thaw in
a matter of seconds.
    If the pipe is located behind a wall, the gradual heating method will
still work, but will take longer. The heat will be conducted to the affected
area, but will be diffused over a wider area rather than with pinpoint
    Beware... Some people suggest thawing out frozen pipes using a propane
torch in combination with a heat-resistant barrier placed between the pipe and
the wall. This method is not recommended, as the risks of weakening a pipe
weld or starting a fire are too great.
    Prevention - One way to avoid freezing problems is by making permanent
improvements to plumbing insulation. You can buy foam sleeves with a
lengthwise slit, which are easy to fit around cold-sensitive pipes, or bands
of insulation that wrap around the pipe. There are also heating cables that
can be wound around pipes and connected to an electrical outlet to prevent
freezing. With the cold snap expected to continue for a few days, CAA-Quebec
suggests that people who are worried about pipes freezing turn on the
cold-water tap just enough to let a permanent trickle of water flow out, and
avoid closing unheated cupboard or closet doors. If none of the above proves
efficient, there may be no other choice but to call a plumber.
    Aside from its many automotive, travel and financial services, CAA-Quebec
(, a not-for-profit organization founded in 1904, provides
its 950,000 members with assistance, advice and references for their home.

For further information:

For further information: Philippe St-Pierre, (418) 624-2424, ext. 2418,; Sophie Gagnon, (418) 624-2424, ext. 2324,

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