General

Common Winter Plumbing Issues and How to Fix Them

Plumbing problems can occur at any time. Pipes can get clogged, septic tanks can crack, but winter causes a whole different set of problems. And the best way to address this is to winterize your plumbing before the cold weather hits. But in case you didn’t get around to it or were hit with a surprise freeze, there are some issues you should be proactive about.

Frozen pipes

Frozen pipes are among the most common winter plumbing problems. This usually happens because some areas of your plumbing are exposed or unprotected. To avoid this, it’s a good idea to check for exposed pipes. You can then wrap these areas with insulation if you can get to them yourself.

It’s also helpful to leave your water turned on to a drip during a freeze; this keeps it flowing through the pipes. Moving water will not freeze as easily as water that is still. And don’t forget your outdoor spigots. Remove water hoses and cover these spigots with specially-made covers or insulation as well.

If your pipes do freeze, however, it’s important to turn off your water supply and call a plumber right away. Ice in the pipes can expand and cause pipes to burst, damaging your home and your plumbing. Also, never let your indoor temperature drop too low. There is no standard recommended thermostat setting to protect your pipes, unfortunately — it just depends on where you live and how well-insulated your pipes are. But use your best judgment and keep your house above freezing at all times, even when you’re away.

Busted septic tank

In extreme freezing temperatures, the line from a house to a septic tank can freeze. Or the moisture in the tank can freeze and bust. When this happens, you won’t have much choice other than calling a professional company like Full Bore sewer repair. The best way to prevent this from happening is to have your septic tank cleaned out before winter, so that there is very little liquid in it to freeze and expand.

Clogged drains

Clogged drains can be a problem any time of year, but they’re usually a little more common during the winter for a couple of reasons. For one thing, families tend to have more visitors and prepare more food. This means the plumbing is getting used more frequently and there are more chances for greasy, soapy residue to build up in the pipes.

Also, because it’s cold, that residue doesn’t dissolve as easily on its own. If you notice your sinks and tubs starting to drain more slowly than usual, it’s a good idea to address the problem quickly. Use a liquid drain cleaner to begin with to see if that helps. Or manually clean out the u-shaped trap under the sink having the issue. If you can’t fix the problem yourself, it’s easier to contact a professional before the holidays.

Water heater malfunctions

During the winter months, water heaters have to work a little harder to maintain their set temperature. This is especially true when water heaters are kept near outside walls where they’re exposed to more cold air. And because they’re working harder, there is a higher chance for failure.

To keep your water heater functioning as well as possible, make sure it is not exposed to cold air. If it’s in a closet that is open to the attic, for example, try to close off that space to prevent drafts. Or if it’s in a crawl space or near an opening, try to insulate the area and seal it off. Most water heaters will hold up for about a decade. So, if yours is nearing the end of its lifespan, it’s possible those hard-working years will do it in, even with the best precautions.