Thaw frozen pipes
If you have frozen underground water pipes or internal plumbing, you will need to have them thawed.
To thaw frozen internal plumbing, you can hire a licensed contractor, or trying thawing the pipes yourself, by following the directions below.
Thaw your frozen internal plumbing yourself
At your own risk, you can try to thaw frozen internal plumbing pipes yourself. Please proceed with caution and follow these steps.
Step 1: Find the frozen pipe
- Turn on every faucet. Faucets with low water pressure are likely connected to a frozen pipe. If all faucets have low water pressure, the frozen pipe may be near the water meter.
- The frozen area of the pipe will have frost or ice on it.
- Frozen pipes may be located in colder areas of your home or business (basements, crawlspaces, or garages).
Step 2: Thaw the pipe (this can take between one to six hours)
- Open the tap closest to the frozen pipe.
- Wrap a warm towel around the pipe (the key to safely thawing frozen pipes is to apply slow, even heat).
- Start near the faucet and warm the pipe working your way towards the coldest section.
- Keep the faucet turned on until full water pressure is restored.
- If the pipe leaks after it has been thawed, turn off main shut-off valve and contact a licensed contractor to repair the leak.
- Do not use boiling water as it can cause the pipe to burst.
- Do not use open flame devices, hair dryers, or portable heaters, as these are fire hazards.
City of Winnipeg Thawing Services
Before we thaw:
We will ask you to sign an authorization form to allow City staff to enter your property and make any plumbing modifications, and assume responsibility for all costs in the event that the pipe is frozen on the property owner’s portion of the pipe.
Visit winnipeg.ca/yourwaterpipe for more information on your water pipe responsibilities.
Thawing the pipe:
The crew will use thawing equipment on the portion of the water pipe between the property and the shut-off valve (usually at or near the property line).
- If the water begins to flow, the pipe was frozen on the property owner’s portion of the pipe
- If the water does not flow, the pipe is frozen on the City’s portion of the pipe
For properties other than single-family residential properties, the process to thaw will be the same, unless the property has fire protection service or it uses the water for purposes other than domestic use. In this case, the property owner owns this pipe and is responsible for all services and costs.
After we thaw:
If the pipe was frozen on the property owner’s portion of the pipe, you are responsible for paying the thawing fees and will be invoiced at a later date.
Your pipe could freeze again as long as the frost remains deep in the ground. This may continue until spring. You can help prevent a re-freeze by running your water, however, as the frozen part of the water pipe was located on your property, you are responsible for all costs associated with running water to prevent a re-freeze. The City will NOT reimburse you for any water used for this purpose.
If you choose to run your water, you will be responsible for the cost of running the water. Please read Preventing a re-freeze for tips on setting the water flow at the tap.
If the pipe was frozen on the City’s portion of the pipe, there is no charge for thawing your pipes. To prevent a re-freeze, you will also be required to run your water.
We will credit your utility bill up to a maximum of 1.5 cubic meters per day (1,500 litres) for water used to prevent a re-freeze. If you run your tap at a higher flow rate than recommended below, you will have to pay for the additional water used.
To calculate your credit, we will require two water meter readings, one from the day the pipe was thawed and the second when the City notifies you to stop running your water.
If we are not provided these readings, you will NOT receive the utility bill credit, and you will be billed for the full amount of the water and sewer charges.
Preventing a re-freeze:
After your pipes have been thawed, we recommend you leave one of your cold-water taps running all the time. The flow rate should be just enough to fill a one-cup measuring cup (8 oz/250 ml) in 15 seconds. If the water overflows the cup prior to 15 seconds, reduce the flow rate and try again.
If your freeze was on the City side of the pipe, you will be reimbursed for your water use.
If the freeze was on the property owner’s side of the pipe, you will be responsible for the costs of running the water.
Please choose a tap that you don’t use very often, so that the water runs continuously. Check regularly to ensure that the flow rate has not been changed.
Please ensure that the water is draining at all times, to prevent any water damage while the cold tap is running continuously.
If the water pipe freezes again
Contact 311 to arrange to have your pipe thawed again. It may take up to five days to provide thawing services. If the frozen part of the pipe is on your private property, you will be charged another thawing fee.
When the risk of freezing water pipes is over
We will notify you when it’s time to stop running your water. This could be as late as the middle of June, depending on the weather.