Burst pipes and water damage as sub-zero temperatures take hold in Metro Vancouver

Broken water pipes are causing water damage and forcing evacuations across the region, in addition to keeping restoration companies busy.

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Pipes have burst in homes and buildings across the Vancouver region in recent days as freezing temperatures cause water to expand and pass through or create cracks.

There have been mini-floods and scenes of waterfalls near airport gates, on a ferry, in nursing homes and in a hospital emergency room.

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“It’s been a lot more than usual,” said Keyosha Waugh, who works with the operations manager of Incredible Restorations, a Vancouver-based water damage repair company.

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He received between 60 and 70 calls over the weekend. On Monday, the count was almost 20 new flooding, including condominium buildings, service buildings and private homes.

There’s all sorts of advice on how to prevent and what to do after a pipe burst, but Waugh believes there’s also a bigger picture to consider.

“We definitely need to think about how houses and buildings are built here. In many cases, pipes are not adequately insulated. “There is no insulation around it between the interior and exterior wall.”

Cam McLeod, vice-president of Burnaby-based Paul Davis Greater Vancouver Restoration, agreed that older homes, “where the insulation is not the best,” have been more prone to burst pipes.

He estimated he was five or six times as busy with calls last weekend.

“We always get a significant increase in the number of claims when there is a deep freeze where temperatures are -6 degrees or lower and stay that way for three or four days,” McLeod said.

He suggested insulated hose covers to protect outdoor faucets. These trap heat from the interior pipes and prevent the faucet from freezing and causing a pipe break.

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There are also insulating pipe sleeves made from Styrofoam, said Rob de Pruis, national director of industrial and consumer relations at the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

Claims can be submitted at any time, “even in the early hours of the morning. It’s 24/7, if you have water damage you can start the process right away with an adjuster. And even after filing a claim, you should do everything you can to reduce or mitigate further damages,” de Pruis said.

On Friday, at Vancouver International Airport, a water pipe failed, causing a leak near one of the gates of the domestic terminal. Operations and maintenance crews secured the area, which had a pool of water, and repaired the pipe.

There are hundreds of kilometers of active pipelines at YVR, said Vancouver Airport Authority spokesman Emad Agahi.

“Our maintenance staff continues to evaluate the effects of cold temperatures on our infrastructure to ensure continued safety and operational resilience.”

On Saturday, more than a dozen residents of a Surrey nursing home moved out after cold weather caused pipes to burst and caused extensive water damage.

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Mission Memorial Hospital had to close its emergency department after burst pipes flooded the unit. Fraser Health said the emergency room would be closed indefinitely while the damage is assessed. The rest of the hospital continued to operate.

BC Ferries had some “contained issues” with burst pipes over the weekend, particularly due to cold temperatures that were made worse by wind chills as the ships moved through the water, according to spokesperson Jeff Groot.

Some passengers posted photos on social media of water from a burst pipe falling onto vehicles on the lower deck of a ferry.

The wind chill caused by the speed of the ship moving through the water caused the temperature in certain situations for the pipes to be in the range of -20 degrees C.

Groot explained that all of the newer vessels have traces of heating around the pipes, within the insulation, which helps prevent any problems.

But on some of the other vessels, BC Ferries is taking immediate steps to improve insulation and add heat tracing, especially around its critical sections.

— with file from Joseph Ruttle

[email protected]

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