During winter, especially those ice-cold Ottawa winters, many homeowners and tenants face the same problem: frozen water pipes.

The good news for Ottawa homeowners is that you can act to prevent frozen pipes and mitigate water damage if one were to burst in your home. Here we’ll discuss how to do both.

How to prevent frozen pipes?

John Ward, account executive at Mold Busters Ottawa, has tips for keeping the water flowing—not freezing—inside your pipes this winter.

  1. No water pipes near exterior walls

John’s number one rule is NOT to put a water pipe near an exterior wall, or at least to avoid doing so at all costs. If there’s no alternative, speak to your contractor about how he or she can provide heat to whichever pipes are easily and often exposed to the cold.

  1. Keep your home warm

Besides the placement of pipes, keeping your home warm inside is crucial. Accomplish this in the following ways:

  • Make sure your home is adequately insulated.
  • Ensure there’s adequate ventilation in every room.
  • Find and eliminate drafts.

John recommends using high-quality insulation, such as Roxul; house wrap on the exterior, such as Tyvek; and plastic vapor inside the house (before the drywall is installed).

In older homes, John usually takes out the insulation and replaces it with new, denser insulation–insulation with a higher R-value. The R-value refers to the insulation’s effectiveness. The higher the R-value, the more resistant it is to the movement of heat.

  1. Make sure air is circulating

Adequate air circulation plays a vital role in keeping your home comfortable and warm, just as insulation does. John suggests that every room have a separate air supply and cold air return.

  1. Locate and repair air leakage

Get rid of drafts. If you don’t know where your home’s cold air is coming from, you can detect air leakage via an infrared inspection. And beware of these three typically drafty areas:

  • Windows, doors, and their frames
  • Basement joist-bays
  • Electrical outlet boxes

To stop cold winter winds from coming through an electrical outlet box, John suggests a foam outlet cover. These covers are inexpensive and easy to install.

Ensure all caulking on the inside and outside of window and door frames is intact, and consider replacing windows and doors after about 15 years.

If you suspect a pipe is already frozen—does little to no water run when the tap is on?—then have a plumbing contractor safely thaw the water lines.

  1. How to mitigate water damage

Of course, it’s better to prevent your pipes from freezing than to deal with the damage once it bursts. However, we don’t live in a perfect world; you can easily find yourself knee-deep in water in the basement, wondering what to do next.

You and your home must be prepared to handle water damage so that it doesn’t put you and your family in great danger and destroy your belongings.

  1. Ventilate

Just as adequate ventilation throughout your home prevents pipes from freezing, it helps reduce the effects of water damage. If there’s too much moisture (and not enough airflow) in your home, building materials and belongings are more likely to remain wet, leading to wood rot and eventually mold.

  1. Protect your flooring

If you’re going to have carpeting, choose a material that’s more resistant to water than, say, wool and other organic materials. Nylon carpeting, for example, will better protect your subfloor from getting wet. However, keep in mind that carpeting does retain moisture; consider tossing drenched carpets and rugs, and explore other water-resistant flooring options.

  1. Keep your belongings up off the floor

It takes little effort and time to do this, but many homeowners and tenants store their stuff on the floor in boxes or uncontained, especially in the basement. Use shelves because if pipe water floods your unit, anything on the floor—keepsakes included—are the first to get hit.

Keep your belongings up OFF the floor in case a pipe freezes and bursts in your home.

Why is water damage dangerous?

Mold can grow within 24-48 hours after moisture intrusion. Once developed, mold spores pollute your indoor air quality and put your respiratory health at risk.

Additionally, black water, one of three types of water damage, can contain toxic materials (e.g., chemicals) that put you and your pets in danger upon exposure.

Mold and black water are just a few of the many adverse effects of flooding. Contact a water damage restoration professional to return your home to its dry, comfortable state.


Frozen pipes are common in both residential and commercial buildings in Ottawa. You should do what you can to prevent them from freezing, meaning keep your home warm in the winter! You should also be prepared. Ready your home for water damage, and, in the case that disaster does strike, ensure that all building materials and belongings are dried as soon as possible.