Is there an ideal time for a plumbing issue to occur? Unfortunately, the answer to this question is probably no! Having been in the Kansas City plumbing world for over forty years now, I’ve witnessed this on countless occasions. Whether it be the rainy summer months causing flooded basements or something as simple as a leak in the sprinkler system creating a major headache, the one common denominator is they all require immediate action!
Yet another season that causes unique challenges in itself is the winter months. While it’s up in the air on how much snow we’ll actually get in Kansas City, it’s almost a guarantee there will be cold temps. And the one area where this weather applies a lot of pressure is your plumbing system! Now that we’re well into November, I thought it would be the perfect time to take a careful look at a few tips to keep your plumbing in working order throughout the frigid winter.
As a side note, with it already being November, if you haven’t already done all of these items, you’ll want to get them taken care of ASAP!
As we get into these frigid temps, perhaps the biggest plumbing failure you should be concerned with is your pipes bursting! When water freezes inside the pipes, it will cause pressure that eventually results in cracking. While sometimes you’re able to spot this occurrence right away, that isn’t always the case! However, no matter how long it takes for you to spot it, the end result is never pretty!
An easy way to combat this from happening is by wrapping any un-insulated pipes with a foam sleeve. Additionally, you’ll want to keep tabs on these from time-to-time throughout the winter season to ensure no ice or frost is accumulating.
What if they already burst?
Given that we’ve had snow as early as October here in Kansas City, the middle of November might be pushing it when it comes to safeguarding your plumbing against the cold conditions. If this is you and you’ve had your pipes burst, your first step should be shutting off all the water in your home. Then, you’ll want to open every cold tap faucet and drain them out. This includes giving each toilet a few flushes. Next, do the same thing with the hot taps after shutting off the heating system and water boiler. After this, you’ll want to let some warm air get on the pipes that froze or burst. Consider using a hair dryer or opening the cabinets so the home’s heating can circulate. Lastly, you’ll want to clean up any water damage and get an experienced plumber out to repipe everything! Only this time, remember to give those uninsulated pipes a little bit of help with some foam sleeves!
If you haven’t done this one already, head outside and do it right now! Any water-filled hose outside will immediately freeze and expand. If that hose happens to be connected to a faucet as well, it’ll cause the connecting pipes to crack! Simply disconnect them, drain all of the water out and store them in the garage until warmer weather returns.
Heading Out of Town?
If you have a trip already planned on the calendar, you’ll want to make sure you don’t come home to a disaster! Before leaving, turn the water off at the main shutoff valve. If something like bursted pipes were to happen, it will at least limit the damage.
As a side note, just because you’re leaving town doesn’t mean you can turn the heat off in your home! In these cases, you’ll want to keep it at a minimum 55°F.
Watch the Drains
We’ve said it here before, but it simply can’t be said enough! When you’re doing all of your holiday cooking, make sure to watch what you put down the sink drain and garbage disposal. While it’s never ideal to put grease or oil down the drain, it becomes much more likely to clog up your drain when the pipes are all colder. As for the rest of the no-no’s for the garbage disposal, the same methodology holds true just like the rest of the year. No pasta, rice, fibrous vegetables, trash and so on!
Open the Kitchen Cabinet Doors
Sometimes when pipes are hidden inside the cabinets, the heating from the home isn’t able to reach them. Throughout the winter, make sure to open up these cabinet doors and let the air circulate. Maybe ever consider getting a small portable heater to put in front.
Keep the Faucet Trickling
As you’ve probably started to learn throughout the previous points; when pipes do freeze, they create intense pressure causing everything to burst. An easy way to relieve some of this pressure is by letting a faucet slowly trickle. Ironically, as plumbers, we usually try to prevent the various plumbing fixtures from running, but during the winter it works like a charm. Yes, you might see a slight up-tick in your monthly water bill. However, with the other possible result being cracked pipes, a couple extra bucks each month is well worth it!
Sump Pump Safety
We’ve said it before, your sump pump is your best friend when it comes to preventing any potential flooding in your home! If you haven’t already done so, it would be wise to inspect the sump pump and make sure it’s functioning properly. Our team has seen plenty of situations where a homeowner had a sump pump, but it malfunctioned and didn’t work when they actually needed it! To prevent the same from happening to you, carefully inspect and clean the pump, as well as the pit where it’s located. It’ll save you in the long run!
Winterize the Water Heater
With higher levels of hard water throughout the Kansas City area, winterizing your hot water heater is very important! For one, there’s always going to be the possibility of sediment building up within the tank and then causing rust. As the rust spreads, it can cause a bevy of issues, including rust finding its way into your drinking water…
With this in mind, the winter is a great time to plan your annual draining of the hot water heater! The process is actually fairly straightforward and something we covered a few months ago in a blog post. To learn more, click HERE.
Need Some Help?
Without a doubt, your home is one of the biggest investments you’ll make! One piece that affects many different aspects of the home is your plumbing system. There’s no denying the fact that it has a major impact on your daily routine. In addition to all of this, plumbing problems can also represent a major expense, particularly in the cold Kansas City winters! Luckily, as you’ve seen throughout this article, most of these are avoidable with the right amount of caution!
Having been in the plumbing industry for a few decades now, I’ve seen winter wreak havoc on a home. From home flooding to pipes bursting, it’s not always a pretty sight! If you need help getting your plumbing ready to go for the winter or just want to have the peace of mind before it gets frigid outside, don’t hesitate to give our team at Stine-Nichols a call! We’re always happy to help out!