Upgrading Your Pipes

Be Proactive: Fall Tasks to Prevent Frozen Pipes This Winter

Frozen and burst pipes are a common concern when old-man winter comes along.  In the best-case scenario, you and your family may lose water for a short period. In the worst case, you may suffer thousands of dollars of water damage. While knowing what to do if your pipes freeze is important, being proactive and reducing the odds of it happening in the first place can save you the frustration and cost of dealing with frozen pipes in the middle of winter. Follow these tips for fall tasks to prepare your pipes for the upcoming winter.

Inspect Your Pipes

Plumbing that is in disrepair is more susceptible to bursting if it does freeze. Weak areas, poorly sealed joints, and tiny cracks or fissures in the pipes are likely to become worse during the winter with the added pressure or frozen or partially frozen pipes. Visually inspect all your plumbing for any signs of leaks or faulty joints and repair them. The following are signs that you may have a hidden water leak in your home.

  • Moisture around the pipes. This should not be confused with sweating pipes. Cold-water pipes that are exposed to moisture often form a layer of condensation on the pipes. This can happen if your home or basement has a high humidity level. The problem is more prevalent in hot, humid weather. If you have a condensation problem, it won't affect the freezing of your pipes. To solve problems with condensation, wrap the pipes in foam pipe wrap, eliminate sources of excess moisture, or use a humidifier to remove moisture from the air.
  • Stains on walls. Even a small leak in interior plumbing will eventually spread to the walls, leaving behind a telltale water stain. If stains suddenly appear on your wall, this may be a sign that nearby pipes have a leak.
  • Spongy, soft, or wet spots on the floor. Water from a leak will saturate the floor boards and cause the wood to rot. It may feel spongy or have some give to it when you walk over the area. This typically occurs around the toilet, around the tub, or under sinks.

Seal Cracks and Crevices

One of the major causes of frozen pipes is cold drafts that blow over pipes during extremely cold temperatures. A tiny crack or crevice can let in enough cold air to wreak havoc with your pipes in the winter. Check the area where your water source enters the building, the areas around windows and doors located near plumbing lines, and around entrances to crawl spaces for cracks that might create a cold draft. Basement windows and doors are a common culprit. To check for a draft, run a lit candle or match around the door or window frame and watch the flame. A wavering flame indicates there is a draft entering the house. Seal all cracks and crevices to eliminate sources of a cold draft.

Insulate Crawl Spaces

If your plumbing runs through an uninsulated crawl space, your pipes may freeze in the winter. Crawl spaces beneath the home are designed to get your house up off the ground to reduce problems with moisture and contact with the ground. They are a convenient location for plumbing and ductwork, but if they are not insulated, cold air from the outside can enter the crawl space and freeze your pipes. Insulating the crawl space will reduce the chances of frozen pipes and help keep cold air out of you home too. If you are a DIYer, you can insulate the crawl space yourself. Otherwise, call in your local plumber or contractor to do the job for you.

Insulate Pipes in Unheated Areas

If your pipes run through unheated areas of your home, insulating them is a must. Foam-pipe insulation can be cut to size with a pair of scissors and slipped over the exposed pipe. If you have exposed pipes in unheated rooms or running through the garage, be proactive and insulate them now before cold weather arrives.

Being proactive and taking steps now to reduce the risk of problems with frozen or burst pipes this winter will likely save you frustration and money this winter.