The cold winter season of Michigan can lead to unexpected frigid temperatures, freezing rain, ice and snow that can cause expensive plumbing problems. By winterizing your home, you can avoid damage to your plumbing system.
Most Common Plumbing Problems To Avoid:
1. Garbage In Your Gutters
Clean out your gutters of debris and leaves.
Sometimes winter can surprise us with mild temperatures and late or light snow falls. We get used to going outside without a jacket for a morning jog. And we can still recognize and wave to your neighbors without looking like a blizzard bundle in boots behind a snow blower. Somehow we think this nice weather is here to stay, and then BAM…our first snow storm hits and we haven’t yet cleaned out the gutters for the season.
All that gunk in your gutters accumulates. Snow and ice fall on top of the debris and may cause plumbing problems when you least expect it. After all, everything was working fine the day before and now you’ll have to deal with possible water leaks and damage to your plumbing systems.
2. Hose Hang Up
Store any exterior hoses for the winter.
Unattended exterior hoses can become a big problem. As culprit to larger problems, water can build up and freeze around spigots, leading to an excess of pressure, causing pipes to leak or burst. So, put away those hoses! If you leave non-winterized garden hoses outside, you may wind up with more problems than you bargained for.
3. Water Wonderland
As soon as the season gets colder, shut off your inside water valve.
Around October is usually when the grass stops growing and you cease getting your lawn manicured. By this time of the year, you probably stopped watering your lawn, and you’ve already flushed out—or you plan to—flush out your irrigation lines for the close of the season. Any excessive water that has gathered in your piping system could cause your pipes to freeze in the frigid winter months. Close the valve to vertical so that your outside drains can’t allow water to continue to flow throughout the colder months.
“The Insurance Services Office (ISO) standard Homeowners forms and the equivalent American Association of Insurance Services (AAIS) forms list the weight of ice, sleet and snow as named perils–which means that damage from the weight of ice, snow or sleet to a building or property contained in a building is covered. Loss to awnings, fences, patios, pavements, swimming pool, foundations, retaining walls, piers, wharves or docks is excluded.” —Winter Plumbing Maintenance: How To Handle Cold Weather Issues, Black Diamond
If you forget, and leave your water on, the excess water within your outside lines can freeze. This increased water pressure can cause frozen pipes, leading to leaks when the snow melts.
Winter months sure can be pretty with the icicles decorating your home’s perimeter structure, but those gorgeous ice formations mean that your house may be ill prepared for cold weather. House ice icicles hanging from the eaves of your home may be beautiful, but they may also indicate ice dams and future plumbing damage. As moisture dams melt, water seeps over your roof eaves and creates icicles. As more snow melts, water flowing along your gutters and roof may back up behind these dams, leaking into the attic or sidewalls of the home.
Snow And Ice Resources And Reminders:
- What does your insurance company recommend for winterizing your home from snow and ice damage?
- Are you familiar with your insurance coverage; pertaining to snow, ice, floods, or other perils?
- How much capacity of snow your roof can hold?
- Do you have proper roof ventilation?
- Is your home adequately insulated?
4. Blizzard Blunders
Clear off your roof.
Even a foot of snow can cause your roof to collapse. After the first heavy snow, make sure you remove snow from the top of your house, as well as in and around your chimney. If you don’t hire a company to do this task, there are scraping tools that can be used to remove the heavy white stuff. You’ll want to clear a few feet away from surrounding gutters and eaves.
“A roof rake has a rectangular piece of aluminum where the teeth would be on a garden rake, and a handle that extends to 15 feet. This rake is designed so you can remove the snow from the ground.” —Icicles Can Mean Problems, University of Nebraska Lincoln
If you don’t have specialized roof clearing tools, a large sweep broom should do the trick. Ladders and ice don’t always work well together, therefore, always tell someone you’ll be working on the roof and proceed with caution.
You may think your home is invincible—especially if your home is new, but it’s still a roof and it’s exposed to the elements. You’ll want to be even diligent with careful roof observation if your roof is older than 10 years. If it hasn’t been checked in awhile, (even a new roof) may have weak spots or gaping holes where heavy snow melts and runs down your drains, then refreezes in your gutters only to do the same thing over again.
Who would’ve thought that by skipping your fall DIY list, we’d be having such plumbing problems? Now, you’re battling freezing rain and subzero temperatures—AND plumbing messes. Please don’t avoid winter plumbing maintenance early on. The cold conditions can certainly do a number on your plumbing system.
“Geez, I didn’t realize that not clearing off my roof could cause such terrible plumbing problems. Even though I have a new roof, I still didn’t expect this mess. Next season, I’ll make sure to clear off the white stuff!” —Fred, Fireman
5. Basement Beauties
Sump Pump: Check your sump pump function to prevent flooding.
Eventually, the snow and ice will melt, encouraging water to seep into the ground around your home. This unwarranted water can leak into your home’s foundation and cause your water table to rise. During the winter months we seem to frequent our basement only to look for lost holiday decorations, but our basements are the first place to look to avoid plumbing problems.
A sump pump is used if your water table is above the foundation of your home. If your sump pump isn’t working adequately to remove excess water, the dribble can overflow into your home or crack pipes. These leaks from broken pipes can lead to flooding issues within your home. Prior to the fierce winter season, catastrophic plumbing damage can be avoided by maintaining your home’s sump pump.
Hot Water Heaters: Water heaters need love too.
Another basement item to address is your hot water heater. It can work overtime when it’s freezing outside. The colder it is outside, the more your water needs to be warmed by your trusted water heater. If you’re experiencing a shortage of hot water, it could just be that your pilot light went out. Or, it can mean something worse.
More serious plumbing trouble can occur when excess residue seeps into the water tank, overtaxing your hot water heater. If excess water drips into damaged pipes, leading to pesky ceiling or wall leaks, over time this leakage can wreak havoc to your home’s infrastructure. This significant drip could’ve been avoided, if your hot water heater was looked at early on in the season.
6. Dumpage And Sewage
Don’t eat and dump. The winter season brings more cooking in the kitchen and more guests at your home—sometimes including rowdy children with toys. Starchy food particles (or GI Joe toy soldiers) thrown down the garbage disposal can become major plumbing concerns.
While we think the disposal can handle everything, this winter comfort foods can solidify inside your pipes, causing major chaos. Throw out questionable food scraps in the trash bin, and don’t pour grease down the drain or disposal.
Not to mention your bathroom. This area of the house is not to be forgotten either. Your toilets: let’s not go there, you say? Not a good move. Don’t dump more than you have to there either. Check with a plumbing professional to make certain your two-ply toilet sheets are acceptable. Baby (and other) wipes—and toy trucks—should never be flushed down your toilet, despite common beliefs.
Sewage problems stink. Make sure that you’re aware of your downstairs plumbing system. Maintenance starts with your basement.
7. Regular Winter Plumbing Maintenance
Throughout the entire year, it’s important to develop a regular plumbing maintenance checklist, but it’s a particularly wise move to make when there’s a chill in the air. With the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it’s easy to forget about your house plumbing in the winter. Until, of course, it’s too late and there’s a plumbing catastrophe.
No matter what season it is, sink drips or clogged pipes can often be a quick fix. But, let’s not take the chance, primarily when there’s snow and ice outdoors. Snow and ice can amplify plumbing problems.
If you don’t have the time to do your plumbing yourself, you ought to have a plan in place to avoid serious trouble. Do not pour toxic products down the drain after the damage is done, or embark on pipe or drain problems if you really don’t know what you’re doing. You also don’t just want any “Stanley” to try and fix the trouble.
Contact a reliable plumbing professional you can trust as soon as possible. If you forgot to plan ahead, check out this thorough checklist BEFORE the Old Man Winter is upon you.
Need a dependable plumber in the Metro Detroit area to assess your winter plumbing needs? Consider WaterWork Plumbing! Call us today: 248-542-8022 to schedule an appointment.