‘Still in a little shock’: Burst pipes from extreme cold causing big headaches in N.S.

Click to play video: 'Burst pipes from extreme cold causing big headaches in Nova Scotia'
Burst pipes from extreme cold causing big headaches in Nova Scotia
WATCH: The frigid cold temperatures are gone but the damage remains. Plumbers across HRM are struggling to keep up with demand as businesses and homeowners deal with burst pipes. Alicia Draus reports. – Feb 6, 2023

As Dawn Torrealba goes through her house, she points to all the damage caused by a burst pipe over the weekend.

“There’s a sub floor, so there’s still water under the sub floor and so if you push down enough, water keeps coming out,” she said.

Torrealba was away on the weekend but both her husband and son were home. She says when they woke up on Sunday morning there was water everywhere.

“This is quite a shock,” said Torrealba who has lived in her Dartmouth home for nearly three decades.

“Still in a little shock, still in cleanup mode.”

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Water damage from a burst pipe. Reynold Gregor / Global News

On Monday, they had a plumber in to fix the pipe that burst.

Manager of Halifax Plumbing and Heating Gavin Hankin who was on call over the entire weekend says it’s just one of hundreds of calls they received.

“This was probably the busiest on-call I’ve seen in my career,” he said.

“It’s a bit of an anomaly; we haven’t had this cold of temperatures in over 20 years.”

A burst pipe following record freezing temperatures in HRM on Saturday. Reynold Gregor / Global News

On Saturday, Halifax Stanfield International Airport recorded temperatures of -25.6 C, breaking the record of -24.4 C set in 1971.

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The freezing cold temperatures can wreak havoc on pipes, especially copper pipes which are less adaptable than polyethylene and can burst when they freeze and expand.

“It’s just improper insulation,” said Hankin. “People not winterizing their homes, and a variety of unrelated issues within the home of drafts, hose bibs not disconnected.”

Hankin says one way to check on your insulation is to feel an exterior wall.

“Touch the drywall,” he said. “They shouldn’t be cold to the touch. If they are cold to the touch it’s a good sign there’s inadequate insulation.”

Across the municipality, plumbers are now working to fix hundreds of burst pipes. Numerous businesses are closed or had to temporarily close due to burst pipes and three schools — Upper Musquodoboit Consolidated, Caledonia Junior High and Portland Estates Elementary — were all closed Monday due to damage.

Hankin says they’re booked solid for the next two weeks as is the case with most other plumbers.

“Every company is flat out with freeze-ups and burst,” he said.

“Regular calls are being pushed off to accommodate people with no water or leaking ceilings and basements.”

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It wasn’t only plumbers who were kept busy with  calls. The Halifax Fire Department responded to 190 calls on Sunday alone. On an average day they respond to 20 to 30 calls.

“Lots of calls related to broken pipes, flowing water along that line,” said Deputy Chief Roy Hollett.

“Everything from apartment buildings to houses to businesses.”

For anyone who ever has to deal with a burst pipe, Hankin says his best advice is to know where your water shutoff is and how to use it to help minimize damage.

For those unsure of how to turn off their water, Hollett says they shouldn’t hesitate to call 9-1-1 in an emergency.

“If you have a water break and you don’t know how to shut off your water, a lot of people don’t know where their main water supply valve is in their home,” Hollett said.

“Generally we’re pretty good at it — our crews can figure it out quickly.”

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