Tips on Avoiding Common Winter Plumbing Problems

Plumbing problems

Subzero temperatures, blistering winds and expanding ice make winter a dangerous time for your plumbing. Burst pipes and frozen systems could result in expensive repairs. Keep an eye out for these common plumbing problems and ensure an enjoyable winter season.

Pipes Installed Within Outer Walls

Your kitchen sink, shower and other plumbing fixtures are often installed on the outer walls of the house. Although builders do this for convenience, it could cause a problem in especially cold winters or in walls that lack sufficient insulation. When temperatures drop well below zero, those pipes can freeze, resulting in a blockage and possible burst pipes.

Pipes that get used on a regular basis are not as likely to freeze up, since water runs through them for a better part of the day. But the overnight hours provide ideal conditions for plumbing problems to take place, and the potential for damage is much higher at night, when a leak would not be noticed right away.

Combat frozen pipes by adding insulation to the wall space or around the pipe where necessary, either blown in, fibreglass or foam insulation that will wrap around the plumbing pipes. Some experts also suggest that warmer interior air can be used to keep the pipes warm. Opening drawers and cabinets around the piping to improve air circulation may help to reduce the risk of frozen pipes.

Consider this problem during the design phase of your home, and allow significant space around plumbing for insulation and air flow, especially pipes that run along the outer walls of your kitchen and bathroom.

Septic Tank Problems

Septic tanks must be emptied on a regular basis, to avoid clogging and dangerous back ups that can destroy your yard and your plumbing systems. In order to pump your septic tank, the lid or lids must be dug out and temporarily removed. This can be a very difficult job in the winter months, when snow cover and freezing temperatures make the task lengthy and challenging.

Should your tank overflow or the pipes running between the tank and septic bed burst, repairs are messy and expensive. Tackling these repairs in winter is almost unthinkable. The easiest way to combat this problem is to schedule a pumping in the fall.

Several products on the market claim to speed up the breakdown of waste in your septic system. You can use additives to reduce the build up in winter, but remember that these products do not replace the pumping process, which physically removes the solids and extends the life and efficiency of your septic system.

Ask the septic company to inspect your system, and make a note of any issues. Adding bathrooms and upgrading your plumbing fixtures could overload the existing system, and age takes a toll on the quality of your tank, pipes and septic bed.

Water Heater Breakdown

You need a hot water heater all rear round, but this equipment works especially hard in the winter months. Sediment build up is one of the most common causes of default in hot water heaters. Take a look inside the tank on an annual basis, or hire a plumber to inspect the equipment. Sediment can be removed by flushing the tank, although your system will need to be shut down for a short time.

Pilot lights often blow out during the drafty months of winter, shutting off gas hot water heaters. Power outages or surges can also result in electrical faults within the equipment. Whether you need to call a plumber or an electrician, have these faults looked after quickly to ensure your family has access to hot water for bathing, cleaning and laundry.

Exterior Plumbing Fixtures

You may not notice the problem until springtime, but wintery conditions can damage and even destroy exterior plumbing fixtures. Hose bibs, water valves and sprinkler systems that are not properly prepared for winter deteriorate quickly under the pressure and strength of severe cold.

Any exposed plumbing and pipes need to be completely wrapped for insulation value. Harsh winds and wet weather take a toll on pipes, valves and connections. Keep these areas protected with screens, pipe wrap, even inexpensive burlap sheets often used on trees and shrubs. Consider boxing around exposed plumbing to allow space for insulation and keep out the biting wind.

Always drain your hose bib completely and bring any detachable components into the house or garage for winter. Have an experienced irrigation specialist or landscaper service your sprinkler system to get it ready for the cold weather. This process differs, depending on the type of sprinkler heads involved.

Once the piping and tanks used for exterior plumbing fixtures have been drained, detach the P-trap and drain interior components. Reinstall the P-trap for the winter months and use anti-freeze in the system if you're still worried about problems caused by cold temperatures.

Think about all of the potential problem areas, not just those directly connected to your main plumbing systems. Issues with hose bibs and sprinkler systems can result in serious water damage, but winterizing your rain barrel, outdoor toilets and stand-alone irrigation systems also reduces the risk of problems. Rain barrels and rain basins should be drained, as well as any piping and valves connected to this equipment. If possible, store them out of the weather (in your shed or garage). Permanent rain barrels and water collection basins can be covered for the winter, to protect from cracking, splitting and other damage that often arises in the extreme temperatures of December to March.

Several issues can arise over the winter months, causing serious damage to your plumbing system, both inside and outside the house. Be sure to take care of maintenance issues in the fall, such as scheduling a septic tank pump and draining exterior plumbing fixtures. Have your water heater inspected and repaired on a regular basis and add insulation to any pipes installed within exterior walls. These tips will help you avoid common winter plumbing problems and keep your home running smoothly all year round.

Posted by: TrustedPros
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