‘Tis the season for snow, icy roads and frozen pipes — all things that I can do without! Last year, we unfortunately failed to properly winterize the pipes in the outside wall of our garage and we paid for it dearly. Thank God my mother was visiting from out of town and heard a popping sound followed by rushing water on the lower level. We were too late and did have water damage in one room and our garage.
Here we want to equip others with information to help you avoid such an expensive headache. Here are some common questions and answers about winterizing your plumbing from Plumbing Solutions Expert Doug Scaggs, of B&W Plumbing and Heating Company in Speedway, IN. The Indianapolis-area company has been around since 1961 and employs more than 30 people. Read on:
Q: Why is winterizing your plumbing important?
A: Winterizing your plumbing is very critical to avoid frozen pipes. Frozen pipes can burst and cause water damage, said Scaggs, a plumber with more than 35 years of experience. Winterizing your plumbing protects water lines, fixtures, faucets and drain line traps from damage.
Q: What are the most important steps homeowners should take?
A: Scaggs highlights five areas on which to focus:
Heating system: Make sure you have your heating system serviced and that it is working properly. Many companies offer a service package that includes system inspections twice per year. A house with a faulty heating system increases the likelihood of plumbing problems in freezing temps.
Crawl space: Be sure to close your crawl space vents and doors. When you crawl into that area, you shouldn’t be able to see any light from outside. If you can see light, caulk the cracks.
Hoses: Remove all hoses from outside hydrants so that water trapped in the hose doesn’t freeze the line. This can cause a big mess for homeowners.
Water: If the outside temperature drops below 1 degree Fahrenheit, it’s wise to leave a very small stream of water running so your pipes don’t freeze.
Sink Pipes: If you have an outdoor kitchen or a sink on an outside wall of your house, it’s a good idea to open the cabinet doors to allow the warm air to reach the pipes when temps are extremely cold.
Q: What are the preventive costs involved?
Most heating and cooling companies offer a maintenance cleaning and inspection package that generally runs between $150 and $200.
Before the onset of cold weather, ensure that your pipes are sufficiently insulated. Insulation sleeves and wrapping made of foam rubber or fiberglass are available at most hardware stores. Leaks that allow cold air in must be sealed off. For instance, cracks and holes in outside walls and foundations can be sealed with caulking. All of these precautions are fairly inexpensive.
Q: How costly is it not to winterize your plumbing?
A: The cost of repairing frozen or burst water lines could run thousands of dollars. Water damage is often the biggest cost associated with a burst pipe, especially if the flooding continues for a long amount of time. Depending on the extent of the damage, total cleanup costs can be $5,000 – $70,000 or more. According to State Farm Insurance, the average insurance claim for water damage from frozen pipes is about $15,000.
If the burst pipe is easily accessible (such as in a basement), hiring a plumber to do a spot repair on a non-emergency basis can range from $50 to $250. Bringing in a plumber to do the same repair on an emergency basis boost the cost from $300 to $600.
Q: Are there different precautions to take in various areas of the country?
A: Here in Central Indiana, we winterize our plumbing and track the daily weather to know when temps will dip below 0 degrees. When they do, we’re careful to leave our water running minimally. Scaggs said homeowners in warmer climates typically don’t need to winterize plumbing. If you live in a very cold climate, these steps are crucial.
Q: Do you suggest a specific resource about winterizing plumbing?
A: There are always tips online to winterizing your plumbing. Local plumbing companies usually have a website or Facebook page you can reference. We suggest contacting a local company that is familiar with local weather in your area for the most relevant information.
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