Cold weather is coming! Winterize your plumbing.

Here’s how to winterize plumbing to protect those pipes and be ready.

Key tips to remember

  • Winter temperatures can freeze pipes
  • Frozen pipes can cause major damages
  • A well-sealed home retains heat better
  • You can install pipe insulation yourself
  • If you need help winterizing, call a pro

Worried about your pipes? You should be, especially if you live up north. But you can stop googling “winterize home” and “winterize vacant home” now because whether you’re worried about a home you live in or an empty one you have a stake in, we’ve got all the key steps on your winterize home checklist right here. Old Man Winter may have yet to arrive, but he’s lurking on the outskirts of our comparatively innocent fall season, hatching his diabolical plans to freeze our plumbing pipes and cackling maniacally as he amuses himself with the imagined headaches he’s sure to cause. The good news is the old man’s plans can be thwarted before he even arrives. With our handy tips to winterize your home, a little elbow grease and some DIY spirit, you’ll learn how to keep pipes from freezing, how to winterize house plumbing, and how to winterize your home in general well before the holidays.

Why winterize plumbing?

Depending on where you live and how cold it gets, winterizing pipes can be one of the most important things you do to prepare for the coldest months of the year. When temperatures drop below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, your pipes are entering the danger zone. If you don’t drain your pipes, water can freeze in them. When water freezes, it expands, sometimes causing pipes to burst. A burst pipe could dump hundreds of gallons of water into your home within minutes, resulting in expensive repairs not only for pipes and affected plumbing, but also water-related damages to other affected portions of your home.

Leading indicators

If you turn on your water and nothing happens, you might have a frozen pipe. If you haven’t turned on the water but can hear it running somewhere, you might have a water leak. Either way, your pipes could be damaged, and you will need to investigate. Turn off the water main, water pump and water heater, and avoid the temptation to break out the blowtorch.

Prep work inside

Begin your investigation by making a list of all the faucets and valves within the home so you know what you’re dealing with and can cross items off the list as you work your way through, opening all drain valves and taps, and making notes on your checklist as you go. Closed taps can retain water, so use an air compressor to blow out any water that remains. Drain the water heater, using a garden hose if necessary, making sure all water has left both holding tanks, and add antifreeze to the jet-pump case. Flush all the toilets in the house, and if you can’t get rid of all the water, add antifreeze here as well to protect the toilets. Check sinks and drains for drain traps that could retain water, and add more antifreeze to protect them from cracks. 

Keep garage doors closed, and on frigid nights, open doors to kitchen or bathroom cabinets that conceal pipes so warm air will get to them easier. On those frigid nights, use a space heater anywhere you’re particularly worried about pipes freezing, but be careful and never leave a space heater on while you sleep. Keep your heat set to at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit, and don’t be afraid to let a little cold water slowly trickle out when temperatures drop. Make sure to account for every zone in your home because some rooms or even entire sections might be used less and overlooked, making them colder, which could have disappointing consequences to say the least.

Prep work outside

Remove all your garden hoses from outdoor faucets, drain them of water using the air compressor in the driveway or on the sidewalk, and store them indoors. Disconnect the water supply for sprinkler systems and drain the related pipes accordingly. Some outdoor faucets have indoor shut-off valves, so go ahead and close those and open the faucet to drain any residual water. Protect the outdoor faucets with an insulating sock designed to prevent freezing.

Pipe insulation

Foam pipe insulation is a relatively easy way to add extra cold-weather protection to your pipes. While it’s not a complete failsafe and pipes can still freeze in extreme temperatures, foam pipe insulation is worth the effort to install on all accessible pipes inside, under and above your living space. For extra protection, place a layer of electrical or heat tape under the foam.

Air leaks

Along with increasing your home’s overall energy efficiency — and lowering your utility bills as a result — sealing air leaks provides additional benefits, like keeping cold air away from your pipes. Seal gaps around all windows and doors, making sure to weatherstrip them as well. Seal crawl-space vents and gaps wherever pipes or conduits enter your home. Block vents leading outdoors with sections of plywood or cardboard. Use caulk or expanding foam to fill in gaps, such as between exterior walls and your foundation. While you’re filling in air leaks, you’ll also want to insert foam gaskets behind electrical outlet covers and switch plates, and seal water-heater vents and chimney or fireplace leaks.

Call in a pro

Remember, if at any point this feels like too much to handle, calling a professional is not a sign of defeat. It’s a reasonable decision that demonstrates your commitment to taking care of your property. The fact that you’re acting on it before it becomes an emergency is evidence of your determination to protect your home.

Thanks for stopping by to read our post on winterizing pipes and plumbing before cold weather sets in. We hope it was helpful. While you’re here, you may also be interested in a few of our other posts on keeping out the cold and preparing your home for fall and for winter.

The information in this article is intended to provide guidance on the proper maintenance and care of systems and appliances in the home. Not all of the topics mentioned are covered by our home warranty or maintenance plans. Please review your home warranty contract carefully to understand your coverage.

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