Plumbing failures are definitely not fun. We depend on our toilets, showers, kitchen sinks, and laundry so much every day, but we tend to take them for granted. It’s complete havoc if they stop working, but it’s probably even more catastrophic if the plumbing in a home ruptures or breaks completely. (Parts of your home are generally made out of materials like wood and paper, and contact with water can lead to mold or other serious issues.) Now that winter is coming up, here are a few easy things you can do to make sure your home is prepared.
An Ounce of Prevention
We see outside hose connections that have frozen and burst more frequently than any other kind of plumbing failure during the wintertime. Generally speaking, what happens is people leave their hoses hooked up to the hose bib. Any water in the hose bib will freeze and expand, causing it to burst. Of course, you can prevent this from ever happening by simply disconnecting the hose. But someone might decide to use the water hose on a day when it’s not very cold (maybe to wash the car). A couple of days later, freezing temperatures come and you realize that the hose is still connected. Just try to be extra diligent throughout the winter to keep those hoses unhooked, because it’s an easy way to prevent major damage. (If you just have a hose bib, you’ll also need to find its shutoff valve and cut it off. For frost-free wall hydrants, on the other hand, you can generally just disconnect the hose.)
Some homes have plumbing like an outdoor kitchen or outdoor shower. Maybe it’s a dock down at the lake with freshwater. These fixtures need to be properly winterized—just turning the water off isn’t good enough. The pipe can burst if it hasn’t been drained completely. (Air is sometimes used to blow any water out of the faucet.) Ice makers, refrigerators, or other similar appliances might also be on the outside patio. They need to be blown out so that they don’t freeze.
Close off the Airflow
One area that easily gets skipped over is the crawlspace. When a weeklong cold spell arrives with below-freezing weather and wind, it’s very common for all the plumbing inside a crawlspace to get frozen solid. You can prevent that by simply making sure the crawlspace door and vents are all shut securely. Heat from the house will be able to keep the space conditioned enough that the plumbing won’t freeze.
Check You Insulation
In more rural communities we regularly see wellheads, well houses, and well pits where the insulation was wet, unmaintained, or removed during the summer while maintenance was being performed. You’ll need to check the insulation in all of these areas to make sure it’s properly installed and doing its job.
Don’t Forget the HVAC
People with lake houses often turn the heat down low enough to still keep the space conditioned. In that case, it might be a good idea to make sure the HVAC system is working properly. Otherwise, we do offer a winterization service that’s only a call away. If you have any questions about preparing your home for the upcoming winter, or give us a call at 540-483-9382.