Taking time for some winter plumbing prep is well worth the investment and helps protect your pipes all winter long.
Each winter, homeowners nationwide prepare their properties with an annual winter home maintenance checklist. Among these tasks is the oh-so-important job of preparing your plumbing for the freezing temperatures. Even the tiniest crack in a pipe can lose hundreds of gallons of water, resulting in water damage, structural damage, and other major issues throughout your home.
If you live in a climate that has the potential to dip below 32° Fahrenheit (that’s about everywhere in the United States — yes, even Florida!), the plumbing in your house is at risk of freezing. It’s also important to remember that plastic and copper pipes are susceptible to freezing.
Thankfully, by taking a few preventative measures, you reduce the risk of frozen pipes and avoid property damage. Continue reading below to learn how to protect your home.
Winter plumbing prep: 7 helpful tips to avoid frozen pipes
Pipes are subject to freezing for a number of reasons, including sudden drops in temperature, poor insulation, and homes with thermostats set too low. The good news is there are simple things you can do to prepare your house so you avoid this issue entirely. Here are seven things to do during your winter plumbing prep:
- Insulate pipes — Did you know that exposed pipes are much more susceptible to freezing? Take some time to insulate any exposed pipes in your home’s crawl space, basement, attic, and other unheated areas. Insulation sleeves will help maintain a stable temperature and prevent plumbing from freezing.
- Try heat cables or tape — Some homeowners opt for heat tape or heat cables instead of an insulating sleeve. Use these thermostatically-controlled wires to wrap pipes to keep them at a certain temperature to avoid freezing.
If you choose these, make sure you utilize these products for their intended uses and opt for ones approved by an independent testing organization. Always closely follow installation and operations instructions from the manufacturer.
- Seal cracks, leaks, and gaps — Inspect your property for leaks, cracks, and gaps around electrical wiring, plumbing fixtures, dryer vents, windows, and doors. Thoroughly seal these openings with weatherstripping or caulk to keep cold air out of your home and stop it from freezing your pipes.
- Allow your faucets to drip — On extremely frigid nights, a small drip of water from your faucets might be the ticket to keeping your pipes from freezing. A trickle keeps the water moving in your pipes and helps reduce the risk of them freezing. This trick is especially helpful for faucets and water fixtures that are in unheated areas or those along an exterior wall.
- Winterize outdoor valves, hoses, and faucets — Before the freezing temperatures hit, take time to disconnect your garden hoses. Empty the water from them and store them for the season. If you can, use an indoor valve to turn off the water and drain the pipes that lead to the outdoor faucets. This helps keep the short span of piping inside your house from freezing.
- Open the doors — By opening your doors into unheated areas or even simply opening cabinet doors under a sink, you allow heat to get to an otherwise unheated area. This is especially applicable to non-insulated appliances and pipes under sinks near exterior walls or in unheated spaces.
- Adjust your thermostat — Keeping your thermostat set to the same temperature night and day helps keep your pipes from freezing. This helps reduce strain and overworking your furnace during extremely low temperatures.
If you and your loved ones leave for a few days, it’s not uncommon for homeowners to lower or even turn off their HVAC system. During the winter, however, it’s not recommended to shut down the entire system. Instead, set the thermostat in your house no lower than 55° Fahrenheit.
4 frozen pipe signs
Knowing the frozen pipe signs is crucial for a homeowner. It’s also important to remember that pipes sometimes burst when they freeze, so it may not be super obvious. Here’s what you should know:
- No water — The most obvious sign that your pipes are frozen is when there is a complete lack of water coming out of your faucets when you turn them on. This likely means that the water in your supply lines is completely frozen. In some cases, thanks to a partial freeze, you may experience a change in water pressure, and a small trickle of water is present.
- Smells coming from your drain — Another sign that you may be dealing with frozen pipes is if you notice a strong, stinky smell coming from one or more of your drains. This occurs when the water in your drain pipes freezes and blocks anything you try to drain. The food, waste, grease, and anything else you put down the pipe cannot effectively drain and stink up the room.
This problem can also be a result of a different type of blockage, like tree roots or food buildup. However, if you notice this terrible smell during the winter, a frozen pipe is likely to be the issue at hand.
- Visible frost — Another sign to watch out for is frost on the pipes. This is a bit harder to spot since many of your pipes are hidden inside floors and walls. You will only be able to tell if there is an issue if you can access your pipes to see them.
- Water damage — The most serious sign that your pipes may have frozen is if you spot signs of water damage in your property. Burst pipes often cause large amounts of water to spill into your house, so any signs of major or minor structural damage or flooding could be due to frozen plumbing.
Unfortunately, these signs aren’t always noticeable right away. Some warning signs of hidden water damage include:
- Strong, musty, or moldy smells.
- Bubbling or peeling paint and wallpaper on ceilings or walls.
- Orange, green, or black stains on surfaces.
- Sounds of running or dripping water.
- Sagging, texturizing, or collapsing walls or ceilings.
What to do if your pipes freeze
If you do find that your pipes have frozen, make sure to do the following:
- Turn off the water supply — First things first, turn off the water main to your house and open any faucets connected to the frozen pipe. This reduces pressure on any frozen pipes and helps minimize flooding if the pipes do burst.
- Contact the professionals — Get in touch with a trusted, professional plumber right away. They have the tools, equipment, and experience to thaw pipes and get them flowing again. They will also be able to make any necessary repairs.
Even if you do not find a leak or burst pipe, it’s ideal to have a professional assess your pipes. Plumbing that experiences significant stretching and fatigue typically needs to be replaced since they are at risk of future damage or failure.
Winter plumbing prep: Contact Quick Quality Plumbing
Whether you need help with your winter plumbing preparations or have a plumbing-related job, the team of trusted and qualified experts at Quick Quality Plumbing can help!
With over 40 years of combined plumbing experience, our professionals love what they do and enjoy serving our customers. We strive to create dramatic results for each of our clients by packing value, honesty, excellence, and dependability into every transaction.
We are dedicated to providing a high degree of service, value, and results to our customers. As a result, we earn the privilege of being called back to your homes and businesses in the Utah County area whenever a plumbing problem or job arises. Whether you need help with a sump pump, remodeling job, leak repair, 24/7 emergency services, identifying frozen pipe signs, or anything else, our team can help.
Contact Quick Quality Plumbing today to speak with one of our knowledgeable plumbing specialists!