Preventative plumbing maintenance tips this winter

There is nothing like a hard freeze to test the integrity of your plumbing system in your home or business. However, instead of leaving it to chance, use these preventative plumbing maintenance tips to ensure you’ll get through the winter without water heater, water faucet, sewer line or water pipe issues. By contacting a commercial plumbing professional, you can avoid the frantic call to an emergency plumber this winter.

Why is it important to prepare plumbing systems for cold weather season?

If you haven’t felt the onset of winter yet, it’s surely coming to your area soon, which means it’s time to think about securing your plumbing systems for the cold temperatures.

It doesn’t take long for the water in pipes to become frozen, so once the mercury drops to 32 degrees or lower, you’ll find out fairly fast if you needed to take more precautions in the months leading up to winter.

Here are just a few preventative plumbing maintenance tips you should consider right now:

  • Fix any existing leaks, regardless of how minor they seem now
  • Look for corroded pipes, valves or anything corroded that’s associated with your plumbing and have it repaired or replaced
  • Test your water pressure – low pressure could be a sign of sediment in your pipes
  • Inspect your heat pump, furnace and any other heating devices
  • Replace furnace filters
  • Look for exposed plumbing and consider insulating it

Common winter plumbing problems and prevention

It’s not just the water lines that can cause problems – water heaters can break, sewer lines can get stopped up and septic tanks can become a bonafide hassle.

Septic tanks are still common in some areas, and they present an issue unique unto themselves. To prevent problems, be sure that you’re keeping to a regular cleanout schedule, so when the temps dip below freezing, your septic tank won’t be the reason for an emergency call to your plumber.

With the winter chill in the air you’re going to see more use of hot water, which could put your aging water heater on the brink of failure. Look for a build up of sediment in your maintenance efforts, which are best carried out by a professional plumber. They will drain your tank, check for leaks and make sure all the components, including wiring, are secure and functional.

Winter plumbing maintenance tips for business owners

Winter is a time of vulnerability for water pipes, including those associated with fire prevention systems. Always schedule a full inspection of your system in the fall so you can be sure that your system is ready for the cold temperatures and will function perfectly in case of a fire.

Your inspection should account for areas of your business that are susceptible to draft or just don’t get as much direct heat from your heating system as other areas of the business. Make sure the pipes in these areas are well insulated, or work on limiting the draft and improving the flow of heat. Furthermore, you can follow several of the tips that homeowners are urged to consider, which are covered in the next section.

Winter prevention tips for homeowners

The holidays are popular gathering periods where you’ll be cooking big meals for guests, which means you’re likely to see an influx of grease and food going down your drains and into your pipes. Follow these simple steps:

  • Avoid pouring any fats down the drain, because they will solidify and completely plug your pipes
  • Collect all liquid fats and put them in the trash instead of the drain
  • Run plenty of water down your drain before and after using the food disposal
  • If you have multiple guests staying over, spread out the showers over time so as not to strain the plumbing system
  • Keep shower heads free of sediment or mineral buildup by soaking them in vinegar

When water freezes, the volume of it increases, which is what causes plumbing pipes to burst. To prevent this from happening to exposed pipes, invest in a blanket of foam and wrap them securely. Most hardware stores carry different sizes of foam to fit just about any size pipe, and this foam has a slit on one side that allows you to easily wrap it around your pipes. They can also be cut to size quite easily. Use duct tape to make sure the foam is secure, especially if it’s the kind without the adhesive edges.

Your outdoor garden hose needs to be drained, removed from the spigot and stored inside your garage or basement. When you make the mistake of leaving it connected, moisture will freeze and expand in your water faucet. It can also lead to damage of connected pipes. Finally, make sure you’ve shut down the valves for pipes leading outdoors.

Your winter plumbing preventive maintenance checklist

Fall is the perfect time to go down your plumbing maintenance checklist to ensure you’re ready for the frigid temperatures.
First and foremost:

  • Check for drainage issues, which can be detected by using your sense of smell. If you have a sewer gas aroma wafting from your drains, you probably have a drainage issue that needs to be remedied before winter hits.
  • A professional plumber can inspect it to see how problematic the issue is. For instance, it could be something as a serious as a broken pipe, or something as limited as a simple sewer line clog.
  • Check for slow drains. This is an indication that you have a mineral build up, or perhaps grease or foreign substances that need to be cleared out before they a real problem. Slow drains can lead to multiple clogged drains, which can lead to water flooding.

Avoiding plumbing disasters and get ready for winter

If at all possible, never pour fats or cooking oils down your drain. They might appear to move cleanly through your pipes during the warm summer months, but they eventually build up and coagulate in the winter, causing huge problems.

If you’ve had a leaky pipe that hasn’t been much of a problem over the summer, get it fixed before inter as it can lead to a much bigger problem that includes flooding. Don’t wait for puddles to show up on your floor – tackle the project now.

A crucial piece of the plumbing system that is often overlooked is the water heater. Sediment that regularly builds up in the bottom of a tank can lead to rust and failure. Have the sediment removed and your tank thoroughly cleaned. You don’t want that rusty water ending up in your shower, bath or cooking water.

Finally, shore up any drafty places in your home or business that can cause pipes to freeze and burst on the most frigid days of winter. Find these problem areas and reduce the draft as much as possible. You can also use insulation on your pipes that are exposed to these areas to further protect yourself from a disastrous burst pipe.

For a thorough inspection of your plumbing system, schedule an appointment with Valley Fire Protection today. We’re an industry-leading emergency fire protection and plumbing system service provider trusted throughout Greater Chicago and Northern Indiana.

Related Topics: Plumbing Tips
By: Tom Hartel
I acquired my expertise by directing day-to-day operations of the business for over 20 years. Continuous hard work helped me become a nationally recognized speaker and expert on fire protection, fire sprinklers, special hazards, and plumbing systems. In this blog, I share my knowledge that will hopefully help you make better decisions for your projects.


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