Pipe Maintenance for Your Winter Home
Pipe maintenance is one of the most vital household tasks.
A cracked or burst pipe can cause up to tens of thousands of dollars worth of damage. A common cause of this type of damage is water freezing within the pipes, so looking after them during the winter is crucial.
Even if you’ve got insurance, it can be heartwrenching to see your home damaged by water. And dealing with the aftermath can be lengthy and stressful. Plus, not every home insurer will cover you for this – check your policy if you don’t know.
It’s best to prevent the situation as best as possible by putting a good pipe maintenance regime in place in the home.
Here’s how to keep your pipes running smoothly – particularly during the winter months.
Insulate Your Pipes
Prevention is the best cure – if your pipes can’t get cold they can’t freeze!
Wrapping them up in foam or rubber insulation can help to keep them warm during the winter months. This is a cheap way which is very effective at reducing the chance of a pipe bursting.
Electrical heating tape is another option, but you should consult with an expert about this.
Self-heating materials can be dangerous if wrongly applied, and they may also cost you a lot in terms of your energy usage.
Double-check your basement and attic, as well as any accessible crawlspaces, for pipes without insulation.
Check Outdoor Pipes Too
If you’re arranging professional pipe maintenance, don’t forget to have your contractors check pipes running underground in your yard – for example, to a water feature.
This is important because if underground pipes crack, the earth around them can sink as water seeps into it. This can be expensive to put right, as you might need to hire a professional landscaper to start all over.
A specialist might be able to advise on a course of action to help keep these pipes from bursting in winter. Insulation is usually the best answer if they aren’t already insulated.
But you might want to leave this job to a pro in case you crack a pipe by digging them up yourself. One thing you can do yourself though is to make sure the water is drained from any swimming pools you have or from your water sprinkler supply line. Don’t be tempted to use antifreeze in either of these.
It’s possible that you’ll need to make sure water is running outside the property – maybe to an RV parked on your land. The common advice is to disconnect any hoses before winter because this will break too if water freezes.
A freezeproof hose like the NoFreezeWaterHose is your best bet if you absolutely need to run that line. For example, if you have animals to look after.
Run Your Taps From Time to Time
If there are taps in the house you don’t use often, flush them through with warm water every couple of days during a cold snap.
If you’re concerned about a particular pipe, leave a faucet dripping slightly. This ensures that water is still being pushed through the pipe at a slow speed. Which means that pressure shouldn’t build up in the system.
The movement of the water will also help to prevent it from freezing.
Fill Gaps To Stop the Cold From Getting In
If there are any gaps around or inside your home where pipes are being exposed to cold air, seal these shut.
You might choose to use sealing caulk or replaster any holes in your walls.
Carefully check all your external and internal walls for gaps. Gaps are also attractive to vermin seeking a warm place to live, so that’s just one more reason to seal them off.
Conversely, inside your home, leave doors to cupboards open if they have pipes running through them. Your heating will keep them warmer than they would have been with a closed door.
Leave the Heat On
It’s likely you’ve got the heat on anyway if it’s freezing cold outside. But if you usually use only certain rooms, make sure the radiators in all other rooms are on too.
You don’t need to leave the heat on at full blast. But a comfortable temperature to prevent freezing is sensible – perhaps in the mid-20s to 30s.
If part of your building is sublet, make sure your tenants know that they must leave the heat on slightly when they go out. If they’re running their own meters, you might want to offer a contribution towards their winter energy bills.
This will make them more likely to comply with your request. And many landlords would happily pay $100 or so to cover the extra cost in winter. It’s nothing compared with the cost of repairing a burst pipe in their unit, so the feeling of security is worth every penny.
Make Sure Your Water Heater Works
While we’re talking about heating, you should make sure that your water heater is working properly well before winter arrives.
If that fails during winter, you’ll be in trouble. Get it professionally serviced in August or September so that there’s plenty of time to fix problems before winter comes.
In fact, you can add pipe maintenance to the list while your water heater is being inspected to knock out two jobs at once. Ask the inspector to take a look at any reachable pipes and examine them for wear and damage.
Replacing a damaged pipe in the summer is far better than it bursting in January.
Hire a Professional if You’re Unsure about Pipe Maintenance
We hope this guide has given you all you need to know about pipe maintenance in time for winter.
However, there are times when it’s good to get a second opinion. So if you’re unsure about your pipes, or pipe maintenance, consult with a specialist.
As we’ve mentioned, paying a few hundred bucks for a professional opinion is worth it for peace of mind!
Make sure to check in on our blog on a regular basis for tips on maintaining a happy home.