Prep Pipes for Winter

Before the temperatures drop below freezing, prepare pipes using these simple tips that could potentially save thousands of dollars in water damage repairs.

  1. Locate and exercise the master water shut-off valve. The valve is usually located where the water line enters the house – sometimes near the water heater or washing machine. Once the valve is located, make sure all household members know where it is and exercise it regularly so it can easily be shut off in case of an emergency.
  2. Disconnect and drain outdoor hoses. Before freezing temperatures strike, it’s important to disconnect and drain outdoor hoses. This allows the water to drain from the pipe so an overnight freeze doesn’t burst the faucet or the pipe it’s connected to.
  3. Insulate pipes or faucets in unheated areas. If there are water pipes in unheated areas like the garage or crawl space, it’s best to wrap them in insulation before temperatures drop. Pipe wrapping materials and supplies can be found at hardware stores.
  4. Seal off access doors, air vents and cracks. When cold air seeps through overlooked openings, exposed water pipes may freeze. DO NOT plug air vents by the furnace or water heater.

Prevent Frozen Pipes

When temperatures drop below freezing:

  • Leave cabinet doors open for warm air circulation.
  • Let water trickle to keep it flowing.
  • Keep the garage door closed.

What if It’s Too Late?

Even with taking all the proper precautions, pipes may still freeze during an extended cold spell. If that occurs, the best solution is to call a plumber.

  • Do not try to thaw the pipe with an open flame.
  • Do not heat only one spot on the pipe, as this can cause it to burst.

If you chose to try to thaw the pipe yourself, your best bet is a heat tape specially made to thaw water pipes. This tape is available at many hardware stores. Be careful when heating the pipe, as it may already be broken and not leaking because the water inside is frozen. So be ready with the master shut-off valve in case water comes gushing out.