Don’t Burn the House Down!

It’s been a rough winter in Canada with frigid temperatures causing many water lines to freeze.

When water lines freeze, many homeowners think they can just fix the problem themselves, but as two Hamilton homeowners found out – it’s not that easy and you could potentially cause a lot of damage.

Just a few weeks ago, two homeowners set their houses on fire while trying to thaw frozen water pipes after the temperature dipped to minus 23 degrees Celsius. Thankfully no one was injured, but the blazes caused more than $160,000 in damages and left homeowners out in the cold seeking temporary shelter.

If you suspect you have frozen water pipes and have the Water Line Warranty or In-Home Plumbing and Drainage Protection with Service Line Warranties of Canada, contact our claims center immediately to file a claim.

If you do not have protection with Service Line Warranties of Canada and your situation doesn’t improve by allowing heat to access the pipes, contact a certified local plumber to perform a repair. Never, under any circumstances, use an open flame to attempt to thaw frozen pipes.

According to Dan Milovanovic, platoon chief for the City of Hamilton Fire Department in the Hamilton Spectator, using any sort of open flame to thaw frozen pipes is “incredibly risky” — but also not uncommon. “We see it from time to time … The message here is it’s not worth it,” he said.

Additionally, the use of space heaters isn’t advised to do the job. If you don’t want to hire a contractor, the Fire Department recommends attempting to use a hair dryer, small heater, hot water bottles or towels to slowly thaw the pipe, but this is also very risky. When the frozen water expands, you run the risk of cracking or breaking the pipe.

The best course of action is to prevent pipes from freezing by insulating walls or running a trickle of water through pipes during extremely cold weather.

If you currently do not have the Water Line Warranty or In-Home Plumbing and Drainage Protection, visit to learn more.

But it’s flushable – right?

Handyman on the scene

Just because it says “flushable” doesn’t mean it should be flushed down the drain. A growing problem for many municipalities is flushable products claiming they will break down, but instead are clogging sewer systems, causing millions of dollars of damage to infrastructure.

In 2014, Barry Orr, an official from the Municipal Enforcement Sewer Use Group (MESUG), which represents Canada’s wastewater systems, performed a lab test comparing flushable wipes to toilet paper and found that even after sitting in water for two months, the wipes did not break down as well as toilet paper.

When flushed items don’t break down, someone has to clean them out of the traps. Additionally, when working to remove these clogs, the wipes can actually cause further damage to the pipes and equipment.

Flushable wipes aren’t the only thing clogging sewers. Items such as grease fat, food and more can clog sewers – such as the 14-tonne mass lodged in a sewer drain and dubbed “fatberg.”

Regardless of what the box says, the best method to protect your home from a sewer clog is to just dispose of items in the garbage can. The following is a list of items that should never be flushed down the drain:

  • Coffee grounds, egg shells and food
  • Grease, fats and oils (cool and allow to solidify before disposing or include an absorbent such as stale bread)
  • Animal waste
  • Paper towels and cotton balls
  • Paint and chemicals
  • Medications

Canada’s water infrastructure is in dire need of repairs

pvc pipe on siteA 2016 report on Canada’s infrastructure identified water infrastructure at risk of rapid deterioration. Overall, one-third of Canada’s municipal infrastructure is at risk of failing.

“What this survey shows is that we need to repair our existing infrastructure. Our infrastructure is aging and we need to accelerate the rate of renewal. As any homeowner knows, repair costs skyrocket once you let things go past a certain point. We don’t want to get to that point,” said Canadian Public Works Association President Kealy Dedman in the report.

Investments are needed to keep up with the repairs and maintenance in the short term to prevent a rapid deterioration. The report also noted that many municipalities are failing to meet reinvestment target rates, which will increase the overall infrastructure repair needs substantially.

“This isn’t complicated. Homeowners know you need to stay on top of repairs if you want to avoid larger bills down the road. If you see a small crack in your foundation, you fix it now. You don’t wait until water is pouring into your basement,” said Michael Atkinson, President of the Canadian Construction Association.

While this report focuses on municipal infrastructure, as a homeowner, your pipes are subject to the same problems from age, normal wear and tear, ground shifting and climate change. Do you have a plan to invest in your own infrastructure? Are you prepared for a failure?

This report is an important reality for not just municipal officials, but also for homeowners. Nothing lasts forever, even if that’s a common misconception about our infrastructure. At some point, water and sewer lines are going to leak, crack or break and there will be a hefty repair bill.

“The report shows that we have an opportunity to improve quality of life for Canadians, strengthen the economy and save money over the long term. That should be all the motivation we need to act now,” said Nick Larson, Chair of the Canadian Society of Civil Engineers Infrastructure Renewal Committee.

Service Line Warranties of Canada can help address this infrastructure issue within your community through educational outreach and a plan for not if, but when a water or sewer line breaks. To learn more, visit