Winter brings many problems, one of which is plumbing issues that cause a lot of panic with residents trying to resolve them. Leaving plumbing problems unresolved can cause damage to homes. Most of these problems can be resolved with simple maintenance and by following troubleshooting procedures.
Here are the 5 most common plumbing problems that winter brings –
1. Frozen Indoor and Outdoor Pipes
In winter, both indoor and outdoor pipes can freeze, especially those located in un-insulated areas. For outdoor pipes, the spigots need to be winterized. As outdoor pipes do not run inside homes, leaks go unnoticed, pipes burst and cause damage. Indoor pipes along the exterior walls are vulnerable during the winter months, especially if they are un-insulated. They can crack and lead to leaks and bursts.
Prevention – To prevent outdoor pipe bursts, hose bibs should be winterized by installed frost-free ones in the fall. Outdoor spigots should be upgraded. Water lines should also be insulated.
The problem of indoor frozen pipes can be prevented by leaving on the faucets to a slow drip, which takes the pressure off the lines and ensures water movement. In addition, below-the-sink-cabinets should be left open to allow the home’s heat into the area. Pipes along the exterior walls should be insulated, and pressure-relief-valves should be installed.
2. Water Heater Problems
Whether in the kitchen, the bath, or doing the laundry – it is expected that the pipes in the plumbing system bring hot water as needed. It is a necessity, one that humans cannot do without. But what if the water is not hot? The most common reason for water heater problems in winter is the heavy load.
Prevention – Water heater problems can be rectified with regular plumbing maintenance that involves annual drainage of the water heater tanks and ensuring proper functioning of the pressure-relief-valve. A water heater blanket can also be installed to prevent loss of energy.
3. Clogged Drains
Winters mean celebrations and guests, which are incomplete without holiday cooking. Kitchens and the sinks get a good workout. A lot of food is also sent into garbage disposals, which can result in clogged drains. Baths and shower drains get clogged due to hair.
Prevention – A few precautions can be taken to prevent regular clogging problems. The first of these is to keep improper food items out of the garbage disposal. When using the garbage disposal, allow cold water to run for at least 15 minutes. Drains should be covered with a stopper before the disposal is turned on. A simple tip to keep the plumbing clean is to pour a mix of hot water and dish washing liquid into the drain, let it sit for a few minutes, and then clean with a plunger. It helps to keep a drain snake in the bathrooms to pull out hair.
4. Flooding Basements
Bad plumbing and cracks in the foundation can result in flooding basements when the snow melts.
Prevention – Regular inspection of outdoor drainage and keeping the gutters clean ensures the movement of water away from the foundation of the home, keeping it safe. Sump pumps should be maintained and their functionality should also be tested regularly.
5. Backup Sump Pump
Sump pumps are used more during winters than in summers when ice and snow-melt, and can clog or freeze.
Prevention – Sump pumps should be inspected regularly and tested for functionality. It would help to install a backup sump pump to be used when the regular one fails. The discharge and intake lines should be insulated to prevent freezing. These lines should be maintained to keep them blockage-free. Water should be redirected away from the foundation of the home to reduce the load on the sump pump.
As winter rolls in, things begin to work differently, including the plumbing. Metals shrink, and water expands, damaging seals and weakening fittings. The result is a flood inside the home, causing lasting damage. Repair the plumbing at the first sign of leaks. Insulate pipes near exterior walls to prevent frozen pipes. Troubleshoot water heater problems and if they persist, get a professional to check the plumbing.
Most of the above issues can be mitigated and even prevented by following a few winter plumbing tips. Keeping the plumbing system clean means problem-free winter. And if none of them work, keep a plumber’s number handy. Here’s another useful article with tips: San Diego Emergency Plumber Gives Top 5 Repair Trips | 2021.