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Pro Tips: Water damage in the winter

SAIT expert shares what to do if your pipe breaks and how to avoid it.

We've been in and out of the deep freeze a number of times this winter in Calgary. The cycle of freezing and thawing can wreak havoc with the pipes in your house and can lead to serious water problems, from a small leak to a big flood. There's no way to avoid them completely, but there are some preventative steps you can take. 

"If you're going away from your house for a while you can save yourself from a world of hurt by turning off the water and then flushing your toilets," says Ken Helmer, SAIT Academic Chair, Pipe Trades.
"By flushing the toilets you remove all the water pressure off the system. If something goes wrong with the furnace and your house freezes up, you won't suffer serious water damage because there's no water in the system."

Simple steps make a big difference

Helmer suggests another simple step to avoid leaks. Make sure to remove the garden hose from the tap in your yard. He says people often forget to do that in the fall. They leave it connected all winter long and it can cause a pipe inside your house to rupture.

"The water inside the hose freezes and expands back into the pipe. That can split the pipe and you'll end up with a flood in your basement. Disconnect the hose and it won't happen."

Helmer says the first thing to do if you find water in your house is to investigate if there's a leak - find the source and shut off the water as quickly as possible. If there's a lot of water damage, it's important to call your insurance company even before you call a plumber. He says a plumber may fix the problem but not the damage.

When water strikes

"You're going to want the insurance company to know that you have a problem right away. They might already have a crew they will recommend for you to use. They may tell you to bring in workers equipped with big fans who will mitigate the damage."

He adds water in your house, it doesn't necessarily mean you have a plumbing problem. "It could be coming from your roof or it could be snow melting and seeping through a crack in your foundation. It could be any number of things."

More tips on what to do if you have water damage from SAIT affinity partner TD Insurance.