We have had unseasonably warm weather in the Midwest in the fall for the past 5 years or so.  (At the same time we have had extremely cold spring seasons).That can lull us into a sense of complacency about plumbing maintenance.  So at Yes! Plumbing we have come up with a handy checklist for our clients to allow them to sleep well at night during those long frosty winter nights.

Winter plumbing maintenance tip #1

The first item of plumbing maintenance that needs to be addressed every fall is the hose connection to the outside water faucets.  Remember to shut off any inside valves to the faucets.  Next, be sure to disconnect the hose from the outside faucet. Every spring we get quite a few calls from baffled homeowners for water pouring into basement areas.  Many times this turns out to be a “frost proof” hose faucet which has frozen and burst during the winter because the owner forgot to disconnect the hose in the fall.  Because the hose prevented the faucet from draining when it was turned off, the water remaining in the pipe froze and the pipe then burst.  The faucet was still in the “off” position when it burst so the owner doesn’t find out until spring when he turns it on again to use the hose and water starts pouring into his walls and basement or crawlspace through the split in the pipe.

Winter plumbing maintenance tip #2

The next item of plumbing maintenance needing attention in the fall is the proximity of water pipes to outside walls.  According to plumbing codes, water pipe can never be run in an outside wall without being “protected” from freezing.   This is generally interpreted to mean that if the pipe is run in an outside wall, it should be as close as possible to the inside face of the wall and should have insulation placed behind the pipe with an unbroken vapor barrier behind the pipe.  A better way is to run the pipe up to the fixture through the floor so that is inside a heated space. One special circumstance to watch for is when a pipe or pipes are run up into a lavatory or other cabinet space.  Remember that your heating system usually does not have a direct way to get heat inside that cabinet.  So when extreme temps come around, prop the door open a little on that cabinet to insure enough heat from the house enters the cabinet to overcome the heat being lost through that outside wall.

Winter plumbing maintenance tip #3

Prior to winter is a good time to flush that water heater to get the sediment out of the bottom.  In the winter, the incoming water temps can drop as much as 20 degrees over summer temps and that shock to the tank, combined with sediment hot spots on the bottom, can combine to cause a prematurely cracked tank.

Winter plumbing maintenance tip #4

Lastly, make a walk around the home to check for any openings where wind could get into the outside walls.  Seal all hose faucets openings with high grade caulk. Check overhangs under floors in bath areas to insure no cracks or animal hole have appeared over the summer.  Look for warped or loose siding in bathroom and kitchen exterior walls. 

Oh, and don’t leave a faucet running.  (Better to heat inside the cabinets).  A few years ago it was so cold in areas in Northwest Illiana that when some folks did that, the low temps in their sewer lines caused the water to freeze and ice to build up and block the sewer.  Mobile homes are a completely different story but if you can keep your pipes above 32 degrees ANY other way, don’t let the water run constantly. 

For additional plumbing winterization tips, read our article on how to winterize your home pipes.

Winterize Your Home

At Yes! Plumbing we are happy to give our club members free winterization services during our annual maintenance service visits.   We also winterize homes being vacated for sale or for snowbirds heading south for the winter.  Call us now (708) 847-7045 if you have questions, looking for additional winter tips or need our services. Our phone is answered 24/7. 

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