Frozen water pipes

  • What is a water service line?
  • Who is responsible for maintaining, servicing and repairing water service lines?
  • Causes of frozen plumbing or water service lines
  • How can I prevent frozen plumbing and/or water service lines?
  • What should I do if I have no running water?
  • What should I do if my water service line froze last year?
  • Should I run water from a faucet continuously to prevent freezing?
  • I received a letter or phone call from Halton Region advising me to run water continuously in order to prevent freezing. Will I be charged for the water?
  • Is there a cost to thaw my buried frozen water service line?
  • What should I do to prepare for the Halton Region crew before they arrive to thaw the water service line?
  • What are my options while I am waiting for my water service line to be thawed?
  • What is being done to fix the problem in the long term?
  • What is a water service line?

    A water service line is the pipe that runs underground from the watermain at the street into your home where it connects to the water meter.

    Who is responsible for maintaining, servicing and repairing water service lines?

    The responsibility and cost of maintenance, service and repair of the water service lines differ depending on the location of the line.


    Responsibility breakdown for a typical single-detached home

    The curb stop is typically located just outside the homeowner’s property line, usually on the municipal side of the property.

    • Halton Region is responsible for the section of water service line that runs from the watermain at the street, up to and including the curb stop.
    • The property owner/homeowner is responsible for maintaining/repairing the section of water service line that runs from the curb stop into the home, including ensuring the water meter does not freeze. Homeowners are also responsible for all indoor plumbing.

    Responsibility breakdown for a multi-unit building

    • For multi-unit buildings such as condominiums or townhouse complexes, Halton Region is still responsible for the line from the watermain at the street, up to and including the curb stop. However, at that point the private water service line may split at the curb stop into several independent lines in addition to fire service lines. These additional lines may be owned jointly by the residents and building owner, or outright by the building owner according to legal agreements, which may also involve property management companies.

    Causes of frozen plumbing or water service lines

      Why does indoor plumbing freeze?
    • Inadequate heat inside the home or building (e.g., if the building temperature falls below freezing during an extended blackout, or plumbing is located in an area of the home with insufficient heat, such as a crawlspace or against an outside wall with inadequate insulation).
      Why do underground water service lines freeze?
    • An extended period of extreme cold temperatures can push the frost line deeper than normal, causing some service lines to freeze. (Most water service lines are buried deep enough to escape frost.)
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    How can I prevent frozen plumbing and/or water service lines?

      Consider undertaking the following before the first frost:
    • Remove any garden hoses from outdoor taps.
    • Locate and shut off the internal water supply that feeds outdoor taps, including taps located in the garage.
    • Completely drain all pipes leading to outdoor taps.
    • Wrap water pipe insulation around any plumbing susceptible to freezing (e.g. pipes located near outside walls, in crawl spaces, attics, garage etc.).
    • Seal air leaks in your home and garage, especially in areas where plumbing may be located.
    • Become familiar with the location of your (master shut-off valve). It controls the main water supply to your home. It is usually located beside the water meter. If your plumbing freezes or a pipe bursts, close the main shut-off valve immediately.
    • Become familiar with the location of your (curb box).  It is the exposed portion of the curb stop and is located near your property line. If your service line freezes, Halton Region staff may require access to the curb box. It may be covered in snow at the time and difficult for staff to locate.
      When Cold Weather Arrives:
    • Ensure that your indoor air temperature is kept above 12ºC (54ºF) at all times in areas that may have internal plumbing, especially where your water meter is located.
    • Ensure good air circulation exists wherever plumbing is located. Keep doorways to basement areas, storage rooms and crawl spaces open to ensure the temperature in these areas remains sufficiently warm. This is especially important for the room in which your water meter is located.
    • Do not leave garage doors open any longer than necessary.
    • If you will be away, consider the following:
      • shut off the (master shut-off valve)
      • flush all toilets and open a tap on a lower level (basement or first floor) to drain the water out of your plumbing lines and prevent them from freezing.
      • have someone check your home regularly while you are away.

    What should I do if I have no running water?

      Some of my faucets have no water:
    • It is likely your internal plumbing has frozen. Shut off the water supply at the main water shut-off valve (near the water meter) and contact a licensed plumber
      None of my faucets, showers or toilets have water:
    • This may mean the water service line buried outside your home is frozen.
    • Contact Halton Region any time:

    What should I do if my water service line froze last year?

    • Please provide us with your contact information immediately so that we may assist you in preventing frozen lines again this year. This information will be used only if we need to advise you to flow your water continuously due to extreme cold conditions. Ensuring we have accurate contact information allows us to reach you promptly.
    • Contact Halton Region any time:
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    Should I run water from a faucet continuously to prevent freezing?

    • If required, Halton Region will contact you to run water from your faucet.  Your water bill will be adjusted accordingly. If you continuously run your water but have not been contacted by Halton Region to do so, you will be charged for the extra water use.

    I received a letter or phone call from Halton Region advising me to run water continuously in order to prevent freezing. Will I be charged for the water?

    • If you have been directly contacted by Halton Region advising you to continuously flow your water, your water bill for the period the water is flowing will include the fixed fee only, as long as you follow the steps outlined below..

    STEPS TO TAKE BEFORE YOU START FLOWING YOUR WATER

    In order to avoid being charged for the extra water use, you must follow these steps:

    1. Record your water meter reading right before you start to run the faucet.
    2. Provide the following information to Halton Region:
      • Your name and address
      • Date water flowing commenced
      • Meter reading on the date water flowing commenced

    STEPS TO TAKE ONCE YOU HAVE BEEN NOTIFIED TO STOP FLOWING YOUR WATER

    Once all danger of freezing has passed, or you have been notified by the Region to stop flowing your water, provide the following information to Halton Region:

    1. Your name and address
    2. Report the end date
    3. Corresponding meter read

    If you fail to report the initial and final meter reads and corresponding start and end dates you flowed the water, you will be charged for the water consumed according to standard rates and meter reading.

    Is there a cost to thaw my buried frozen water service line?

    • If the frozen portion of the service line is determined to be on Halton Region property, (see image above) there is no charge to the property owner.
    • If the frozen portion is determined to be only on private property between the curb stop and the water meter, the property owner will be charged $520.67. This fee applies each time Halton Region is called to thaw water line on private property. (It is therefore important to follow all instructions, such as flowing water, once service lines have been thawed.)
    • If the water meter is damaged due to freezing, a fee of $344.47 (2016 rate)will be charged for meters 15 to 25 mm in size. For meters larger than 25 mm, the fee will be equal to the actual cost of the meter. If it is unclear whether the frozen portion is on the public or private side of the service line, there will be no charge to the property owner.

    What should I do to prepare for the Halton Region crew before they arrive to thaw the water service line?

    The curb (box) is the top of the curb stop valve, accessible at ground level on the driveway or front yard (show image when mouse hovers). It may be buried or hidden from view.

    • Locate the curb box outside your house and clear away any snow so it is accessible.
    • Ensure the main water shutoff valve (located inside your home, near your water meter) is easily accessible. Remove any furniture or breakable items from the immediate area. The machine used to thaw your pipes is quite large and heavy.
      IMPORTANT:
    • Never use an open flame to thaw a frozen water pipe.
    • Never pour anti-freeze or any other product into your water system.

    What are my options while I am waiting for my water service line to be thawed?

    • Keep an emergency drinking water supply available as part of your normal emergency preparedness.
    • Upon assessment of the situation, Halton Region staff may provide you a hose to hook up a temporary water supply from a neighbour. The hose will be large enough to accommodate what a typical house uses. Details on how to make this arrangement will be provided by Regional staff.

    What is being done to fix the problem in the long term?

    • For water service lines with a history of freezing on the municipal side or where the location of freezing is unclear, Halton Region is insulating or burying these lines deeper in order to avoid frost penetration. This work is ongoing and is expected to be completed in 2018.
    • For water service lines with a history of freezing on the private side, it is the responsibility of the homeowner to take the appropriate action to prevent future freezing. Similar lowering or insulating work on the public side can be done on the private side, but will be at the homeowner's expense as the issue is on the private side.
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