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When water is frozen, it will expand in volume. When it is inside a pipe, the pipe can burst and the escaping water can cause serious damage. According to The Weather Channel’s article on preventing frozen pipes, the break is not from the extreme expansion of the water. Rather when the ice completely blocks the flow within the pipe, the increase in pressure following the blockage is what causes the pipe to burst. So although the ice needs to freeze for this to occur, the pipes burst is directly related to the increase in pressure. When the pipes have a small diameter, this blockage is much more likely to occur. With the freezing temperatures we’ve seen this winter so far, both utilities and homeowners need to take special precautions to prevent pipe bursting.


In Wisconsin, the freezing temperatures are causing hundreds of water pipelines to break. In February the Milwaukee water crews repaired 305 main breaks within the one month, which is more than double the average of 97 for January. When frost extends four feet into the ground, the pipes buried four feet feet can freeze quickly. To thaw a lateral pipe, special equipment is used to push steam into the pipe to the ice blockage. If the blocked lateral is close to the main beneath the street, it must be excavated. Thawing a pipe can take from 30 minutes up to 12 hours if excavation is necessary and it can cost from a few hundred to $1,000 per repair. Prevention is possible by keeping the water moving within the pipes. If 100 gallons of water were moved through the faucet everyday, at a trickle, there would be an additional $5 on the water bill. If the pipe bursts within the home, it is not the responsibly of the city, it is the responsibility of the homeowner.
Wisconsin Pipes
Water Utility worker thawing a lateral pipe burst.
Photo Credit: Journal Sentinel 


Canada is experiencing the same dip in temperatures and as a result, there has been an increase in water main breaks. Regina municipal workers have inspected on 33 water main breaks on Monday and 7 breaks were reported in Saskatoon. Regina generally has an average of 41 pipes bursting in February, but this year the number is already at 49 on the 25th. Temperatures in this region have reached lower than -55°F. If these temperatures are maintained, both cities should expect a dramatic increase in pipe bursts. Typically older pipelines are more affected, but the deep frost can affect even the most recently installed water pipes. No institution can be excluded from the danger of exploding pipes. Royal University Hospital had a pipe burst behind a wall in the pediatric outpatient area. It left the room covered in an inch and a half of water and traveled into the rooms below, including an operating room and public areas. The hospital was able to avoid canceling any procedures but needed to move its outpatient services to another portion of the hospital. Infection Prevention and Control are assessing the site for possible risks for the spread of infection. It is estimated that the cost of the damage4 is near $10,000 including repair and cleanup.
Workers repairing a water main pipe burst.  
Photo Credit: Metro News


HJ3 Composite Technologies can provide preemptive solutions for pipe bursts. The CarbonSeal carbon fiber reinforcement system is an approved system that meets the ANSI/NSF-61 requirements for potable drinking water.  If pipes that ruptured were wrapped in CarbonSeal the pressure from the ice blockage would not have been enough to burst the pipe. To proactively wrap the pipe would be an initial expense, but it is typically 50-80{f00316eaeff19fc4d3daa6454136ee4db9a0ad1868aa2a79e58a2db09827821d} less than the cost of repair and replacing the pipe when it bursts. Not to mention the incurred damage costs from a water pipe break. In addition to providing reinforcement, the carbon fiber system can increase hoop strength, seal leaks, and contain cracks. By wrapping small and large diameter pipe with HJ3’s CarbonSeal carbon fiber reinforcement system before an accident happens, a lot of time and money can be saved. If you have concerns with your water transmission pipelines and would like to learn more about HJ3’s carbon fiber reinforcement systems, contact our project managers today at hj3pm@hj3.com.
 City of Mammoth Water Pipe Repair
HJ3’s CarbonSeal reinforcing and stopping leaks on a pipe.