Last modified: 2020-02-17 | Approximate reading time 5 mins
Imagine arriving home in the dead of winter after a long day of work and all you’re hoping for is a hot bath. You turn on the faucet and get ready for steaming water to come streaming out but alas nothing happens. What could be the problem? Are your pipes frozen? Is something blocking them? Is your water heater dead? When winter rears its ugly head, plumbing problems intensify and this can make it difficult to pinpoint where these issues begin.
With all this in mind, it’s crucial to consider concrete ways to avoid plumbing problems and the possibility of limited water-system accessibility. If you’re not a trained plumber, don’t worry. We’ll offer tips even the novice homeowner can follow and implement.
Insulating your pipes is a must for the winter months. But taking these steps should happen well before the signs of cold weather begin to set in. Taking measures to maintain pipes and drains is very important in older homes, where an old system combined with freezing conditions will render pipes extremely vulnerable. Pipes can easily freeze or burst as a result of freezing and thawing.
Not only is this issue difficult to deal with, but if left for too long it can be costly. Maintaining your pipes periodically is a necessary feat in both the winterization process as well as during spring cleaning.
Begin by taking a look at any exposed pipes around the outside of or throughout your home. If you find any hoses still sitting outside, make sure to drain and move them indoors. If there are specific pipes which have a history of freezing, take care of these first. Exposed pipes should be insulated with pipe sleeves that can be found at the local hardware store.
If you’re not too sure which pipes tend to freeze first, take the necessary precautions and insulate all pipes. But, pay the most attention to places which are unheated or under-heated. This will include the basement, garage, crawl spaces, attic as well as under any sinks. If you can’t find pipe sleeves, you can always fashion some yourself out of old clothing, sweaters or even newspaper. In a pinch, remember to be creative!
Leaking pipes are another troublesome problem. Even the smallest of leaks can linger and grow, leading to deterioration of ceilings, floors, walls, furniture and other surfaces. Standing water can also cause mould and mildew growth which are serious health risks.
Leaks lead to damage during the spring and summer months but are even more detrimental when it’s cold out. Exacerbated by frozen pipes, the already existing holes will grow when pipes freeze. For this reason, taking care of leaks as soon as possible is an absolutely crucial winter maintenance tip.
Another note is that your pipes are less likely to leak if they’ve been insulated, so do take our first tip seriously. Checking for leaks is fairly easy and here are the places to check as frosty weather begins to set in:
Sinks: Check the pipes underneath the bathroom, kitchen, laundry room or additional sinks in your home. If you notice a musty smell, this is a definite sign of mould and more than likely, a leaky drainpipe. Drains should be checked every few months in order to curb a major problem.
Toilets: If you find a pool of water behind or beside your toilet, this could be an indication of an already developing plumbing problem or leakage. Look carefully at the piping connected to your toilet for the presence of small leaks.
Showers and bathtubs: The piping connected to your shower gets plenty of use, and thus may have a tendency to wear down quite easily. Of course, this can lead to leaks. Bathtubs are another major culprit, as the drain faces significant pressure following a bath. Check any outgoing pipes for signs of drips or leaks. Alternatively, if you have a basement, this may be a good place to check for leaking shower or bathtub piping.
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As we mentioned in our introduction, taking hot showers and baths is a common luxury during those chilly months. With this in mind, before autumn even sets in, we’d suggest having your water heater checked for any existing buildup or corrosion. As may be popular knowledge, water heaters can form a significant amount of rust as well as sediment.
If either of these things builds up or collects in your water heater, the flow of hot water can be both disrupted and weakened. Not only this, rust can lead to cracks in the metal surface of the heater and obviously, this will lead to leaks. Unfortunately, it may be difficult for the novice among us to know what to do with a water heater. This is why it’s critical for you to get in touch with a plumbing contractor who can inspect the heater for you and perform the maintenance required.
Although this is last on our list of winter plumbing tips, it’s something that every homeowner should be aware of. Knowing where your water main is located within your home is very important, as it will need to be shut off in the event of an emergency. After following all of our provided tips, it’s still possible for a major plumbing problem to occur and this includes burst or freezing pipes. If either of these things occurs, the water valve is the last resort and thus you definitely need to know where the main is located and how to operate the valve.
In warmer areas of the country, your water main may actually be found outside whereas, in parts where it gets colder, it will definitely be on the inside of the home. Commonly, the water main is found in the basement, laundry room or crawl space on the wall closest to the street. There are generally two gate valves and these can be turned off when rotated clockwise. Again, turning off these valves will only be necessary in the case of an emergency. However, if you follow all of our initial tips, it shouldn’t come to this. If things spiral out of control, remember to reach out to a professional.
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