Although we started out 2022 with a couple days of decent weather, Calgary is once again locked in a deep freeze. For several consecutive days our temperatures have bottomed out at -30-degrees Celsius, which is very hard on both humans and their homes.
Prior to the new year, the City of Calgary received about 70 calls for burst pipes at homes, and there have most certainly been more since 2022 was rung in. A number of restaurants and bars have been shut down due to water damage, and hundreds of residents were evacuated from an apartment building downtown when burst pipes caused flooding.
Keeping an eye on your pipes and taking some extra precautions can help prevent a serious problem. Burst pipes happen when they freeze and water is forced through, and when the water within freezes and expands, causing a fault in the pipe’s integrity. Even very cold water entering your home from the outside can weaken and damage unprotected pipes.
Ways to avoid burst pipes in your home include:
- Check in the coldest places of your house where your water supply lines are located. These are often in your basement, in crawl spaces, attics, garages, and under kitchen and bathroom cabinets.
- If there are cold drafts entering your home through windows and doors, seal them up using caulking and insulation.
- Pipes that are located in cold spaces can be insulated with a pipe sleeve or UL-listed heat tape. A space heater or a blow dryer are other (temporary) options for warming particularly vulnerable pipes.
- Increase warm airflow to your pipes by opening cabinet doors.
- Keep your heat set to at least 15-degrees Celsius, especially if you are going to be away for a few days. Do not leave your property unattended – ensure to have someone responsible come by to check on it periodically. Many insurers will introduce exclusions after as little as one day of absence from your property, meaning if something like a flood happens you may not be covered if you have not performed your due diligence.
- Make sure the water to your outdoor faucets is turned off and the lines are drained.
- Turn taps on often and run the water for several minutes.
- Remove snow and icicles from in- and out-takes.
- Change furnace filters regularly to ensure that warm air is being properly circulated throughout your home.
Telltale signs to watch for
Some signs that your pipes have burst and you may be facing some issues include:
- A dribble of water, or no water at all, coming out of your faucets.
- Frost build-up on indoor pipes.
- Flooding in your home.
If there is no sign of flooding or frost on your pipes in your home but you are not getting any water out of your faucets, there could be a break in the main City of Calgary line. Contact 311 immediately. While repairs are being carried out the City will likely bring a portable water wagon to your neighbourhood where you and your neighbours will be able to fill up your bottles and jugs. They may also provide water through a fire hose. If there is any damage to your property due to water main work, which normally takes about 48 hours, it will be repaired, however it may take some time to complete due to the difficulty of the season.
If your home is flooding
- Turn off the main water valve. This is usually located close to the water meter where the water line enters your home.
- Turn off the electricity for that part of your home if it is safe to do so.
- Call 311.
- Assess the damage. Take photos, and call your home insurance company. They may send an expert out to further document the damage and assess what repairs need to be made. It is very important to be diligent about fixing everything to avoid mould, water damage to floors and walls, and compromised electrical systems.
- Clear the area of your belongings.
- Use fans to help dry the area out. If you need to make any immediate purchases to start the clean-up, be sure to keep your receipts.
Your insurance company will likely cover a burst pipe incident in your home if you are able to prove that the damage was sudden and accidental. A preventable incident could be something like you leaving for vacation and not having someone check on your property. Another preventable incident could be weakened pipes due to corrosion or lack of care and attention. If you have been taking proper care of your property, there should be no issue with a claim.
Warming weather means you should be extra vigilant
Next week is looking much more tolerable for Calgarians, however warming weather means homeowners should be even more careful. Temperatures that quickly drop, then rise again, are very hard on pipes. Be cautious and watch for signs of damaged pipes to so that when it’s finally warm enough to go outside again you have nothing to worry about.
A large fluctuation in temperatures also provides the perfect conditions for ice dams. Ice dams occur because of poor ventilation, poor insulation, or a combination of both. If your roof is losing a lot of heat, the layer of snow closest to it will melt. That water will follow the pitch of the roof, drain down slowly, and then freeze. Eventually, a large mound of ice will form.
If an ice dam gets bad enough, melted water will have nowhere to go. It will then back up into the house, dripping down into the roof and eaves. This can completely wreck paint, ceilings, walls and beams. Watch your eaves troughs for signs of ice and your ceilings for signs of moisture to prevent an ice dam from becoming a serious problem.
Get Great Advice and Low Rates at Lane’s Insurance
If you need insurance advice, or if you’re thinking about changing insurance providers, the caring and knowledgeable brokers at Lane’s Insurance are a great resource. Lane’s Insurance is a full-service Alberta-based brokerage, offering competitive home insurance rates in Calgary. We offer excellent claims support and outstanding customer service. Contact us at our Calgary, Edmonton, Banff, and Alberta offices today.