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frozen pipes

In order to prepare your home for winter there is a lot to do. To avoid pipes bursting and flooding your home, Restoration Authority advises you to winterize your pipes.

Winterizing plumbing pipes is a process that prepares household plumbing for freezing temperatures that can cause leaks and breaks in the home. When water freezes, it expands as it becomes ice. This expansion produces pressure within pipes that leads to damage.

Winterizing plumbing is recommended when a house will be vacant for a long period of time because water won’t be running through the pipes. The winterizing process involves emptying the water heater, draining all water from the pipes, and filling all fixtures with an antifreeze solution.

Preparing to Winterize Pipes

First, begin with a plan for winterizing your plumbing. It is easy to miss a step, so make yourself a checklist of all your home’s plumbing parts, including all taps and valves, and then follow the steps detailed below. Mark the steps off as you complete them, so you’ll know you did everything needed, and then you won’t have any nasty surprises come cold weather.

How to Winterize Pipes

Follow these steps to winterize plumbing pipes in a house:

  1. Shut off the main water valve, and then turn off the water pump and the water heater.
  2. Open all drain valves and all taps. Check off each on your list, so you are sure all taps are open. A closed tap could hold water inside of pipes. All valves and taps should remain open throughout the winter.
  3. Using air compressors, blow excess water out of the pipes.
  4. Open the drain valve in your hot water tank and empty it.
  5. Drain all the water in the holding tank.
  6. Flush toilets to remove as much water as you can from the tanks and the toilet bowls. Add antifreeze to prevent water from freezing and cracking the toilet if you cannot remove all the water.
  7. Check all sink and tub drains that could have drain traps. Add some antifreeze to each one of them to prevent water from freezing and cracking in the traps.

How to Prevent Freezing Pipes

If you have enough time to check the conditions of the building’s plumbing, find the pipes most likely to freeze. Make sure to look for pipes located near outside walls and windows, uninsulated pipes, and pipes installed near unheated spaces.

It is also important to check for any cracks or openings in walls, floors, and ceilings. If you find holes during your inspection, caulk them to keep cold air from entering those gaps.

Be sure to follow these tips:

  • Insulate pipes with insulation sleeves, wrapping or using slip-on foam pipe insulation. Do not leave any gaps without insulation as cold air can affect the pipe in these spaces. Plastic piping is more tolerant of freezing than old copper or steel water pipes.
  • Inspect the exterior of the property, making sure that all visible cracks are sealed. Cold air can enter through the cracks and, once inside, it will cause your pipe to freeze. If visible cracks are noticed, seal them using caulking or spray foam to fill the voids.
  • Maintain a heating source inside the building to protect pipes against cold.
  • It is a good idea to maintain a faucet dripping, allowing the water to move freely and continuously, preventing it from freezing.
  • Make sure the crawl space is properly insulated. Block all vents that lead to the outside using cardboard or wood.
  • Don’t forget the hose bibs. Hose bibs are normally left unattended, causing them to burst in the middle of the night. Drain hose bibs and insulate with covers. Once this has been completed, deactivate bibs at the shutoff valve.
  • Use heat tape to protect pipes from freezing. Heat tape is one of the preferred methods for winterizing plumbing, but be aware that these might bring additional hazards. The U.S. CPSC has provided safety recommendations for homeowners using heat tapes to help prevent fires.
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