Upgrading Your Pipes

Tips For Dealing With Common Winter Drain Troubles

When you live in a climate that is prone to cold weather, it's important to understand how that weather can affect your plumbing system. In fact, cold and freezing temperatures can affect your plumbing in many ways, some of which can be hazardous to your pipes. As a homeowner, familiarizing yourself with the most common hazards may help you identify a developing problem before it leads to a plumbing disaster. Here are several common concerns for plumbing systems in the cold weather and some tips to help you deal with them.

Identifying Pipe Problems

In freezing temperatures, there are several common problems for household pipes. Here's a look at two of the drain-related issues you may experience.

Vent Pipe Concerns

If you're noticing multiple slow or stopped drains in one region of the house while the rest of the drains are unaffected, it may be a sign that the vent pipe in that section of the plumbing system is frozen. Most home plumbing systems have several vent pipes, each connected to multiple fixtures based on their placement in the house.

The vent pipe is responsible for venting the sewer gases out of your drainpipes, which keeps odors out of your house. When freezing temperatures cause ice to build up in your vent pipe, it can cause the fixtures connected to that vent pipe to act like they are clogged.

The best way to avoid any ice development in your vent pipe is to insulate the vent before the cold weather sets in. Measure the length of the vent pipe and cut some pipe insulation to fit. Then, slide the pipe insulation onto the pipe to protect it from the cold.

Drainpipe Issues

Cold or freezing weather can increase the rate at which any grease or oil in the pipes solidifies. It can also increase the rate of soap scum buildup inside drain pipes, because the soap scum freezes to the inner pipe walls instead of flushing away.

Gradually, the soap and grease buildup can block the pipes, and it can be increasingly difficult to clear it out due to the frozen, thick accumulation on the pipe walls. You can more easily identify this as a problem if you have a habit of running grease and oil down the drain and you're seeing slow draining in all of your home's fixtures.

Luckily, you can help to ease this blockage without the need for an emergency plumber. Boil a large pot of water, and dump it down the drain. The hot water will melt some of the ice and grease, helping to flush it through the lines. Several buckets of boiling hot water should help open up the drain lines.

Dealing with Multiple Frozen Pipes

If the cold temperatures have caused many of the pipes in your house to freeze, it's important to understand the safest way to deal with it. You may be tempted to get a blowtorch or your kitchen torch and apply a flame directly to the pipes. While this may seem like it would be a quick solution, it can cause far more harm than good. The drastic temperature change between the ice inside the pipes and the flame outside can cause the pipe to crack or burst.

The safest way to address the pipe if it's frozen is through more gentle heat application. Cover the pipes with thick towels that have been soaked in boiling hot water or apply heat from a blow dryer instead. This supplies mild heat that's enough to thaw frozen pipes without shocking the pipes and causing cracks.

Protecting Your Pipes in Advance

You can avoid many of the problems that occur with drain pipes in freezing temperatures by being proactive about your plumbing system. In the early fall, talk with a plumber about how to protect your pipes. You can add insulation around the areas of your home where the pipes run, such as in unfinished basements or attics. In some situations, you may even want to wrap the pipes in heat tape, which is beneficial when you're facing a particularly serious cold snap.

With the tips presented here, you can not only recognize common drain problems throughout the winter, but you may even be able to prevent many problems before they start. Talk with a local plumber about any other specific needs for your home's plumbing system.  For more information, visit websites like http://calldoctorfixit.com.


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