Water pipes and service lines can freeze when frost enters the ground during long periods of extremely low temperatures. Water pipes located in unheated areas can also freeze without proper insulation.

In 2015 the City of Port Colborne received over 250 calls from residents whose water pipes had frozen, leaving some without running water for days. We generally take our water for granted until we can't flush toilets, have a shower, do laundry or wash dishes. Routine activities like brushing teeth or having a glass of water are no longer as easy as turning on your tap. Being proactive before the temperature drops is an affordable way to help prevent your water pipes from freezing.

Prepare for winter

Follow these steps to reduce the risk of frozen pipes:

  • Seal air leaks in your home and garage.
  • Install insulated pipe sleeves, UL listed heat tape or heat cables (found at your local building supply and home improvement stores) on exposed pipes in unheated areas of your home such as crawl spaces, cold cellars, basements, attics, storage rooms and garages.
  • Disconnect and drain all outdoor hoses.
  • Shut off and drain all outdoor taps.

What to do if your pipes are frozen

If the pipes in your home have frozen, you can attempt to thaw those pipes yourself following the steps below.

  1. Turn on a tap in the basement. If you are successful in thawing your pipes, water will begin flowing from the tap.
  2. Locate the water shut-off valve in your home. If the pipe you are attempting to thaw bursts or you are successful in thawing the pipe, it may leak and potentially cause a flood. In this case, you will need to shut off the water to your house using the water shut-off valve until the leaky pipe is fixed.
  3. Use a blow dryer or space heater on the exposed pipe near the water meter for one or two hours, or you can try placing a warm towel or rag around the pipe. Do not use a torch with an open flame – you could set your house on fire.

If you have completed these steps and still don't have water, under the City's Frozen Water Service Pipe Policy , you will need to contact a plumber to come to your home. The plumber should confirm that your internal plumbing is not frozen, and attempt to thaw your service line from inside the building.

For more information, see the Frozen Water Services – Information for Property Owners or see the Frozen Water Service Pipe Policy .


If you have a concern that your water service may freeze, it is suggested that you let a cold water tap closest to the water meter run at a 1/8” stream (approximately the width of a pencil lead). The cost of doing so is expected to be not overly significant and will be the responsibility of the property owner.