Winterizing Your Plumbing: Cold Weather Pipe Precautions

Take a few precautionary steps before the cold weather hits to protect your outdoor plumbing and basement water line from freezing.

When buying a house with solid, up-to-code plumbing, you may think you needn't worry about pipelines and water spigots for a while. But as the owner, it is your job to make sure that the plumbing is winterized before the temperature drops and the pipes freeze up and break. You might want to make this a regular fall chore when you take care of other pre-winter preparations for your home.

The first thing you will need to do is disconnect the garden hoses from the outside faucets. Roll them up and store them in the basement or garage until spring. Now you can drain any water that might be left in the outside faucet. Go to the basement and find a shut-off valve for the water. It will be located on the inside of the house where the water pipe from the faucet runs into the basement. It should be within ten feet of the wall where the outside pipe enters. If you can't get the handle to the shut-off valve to turn, spray it with lubricating spray. Wait two or three minutes to give the spray time to work, and then turn the handle clockwise. If you still can't turn it, use an adjustable wrench and try it again.

Now go back outside and turn the faucet handle counterclockwise to drain the water. Next, return inside and open the bleeder cap, which is a round, brass cap located on the side of the main water supply valve. Using an adjustable wrench, slightly turn the bleeder cap counterclockwise. Leave it open about a minute to allow air into the pipes to help force any trapped water out. Use a rag to catch the drops of water that might drain from the bleeder valve and then close it immediately.

Go outside and turn the faucet clockwise after all the water has drained. Now you can put a faucet cover over the faucet. There is a wing nut on top of the cover that will secure it. Turn the wing nut clockwise until it is tight. Then return indoors. If any part of your basement is unfinished, cover the inside pipes with insulation. You will need to size the pipes and visit the hardware store. Measure their length and diameters so the store employees can give you pre-cut insulation; that way you won't have to get it cut or do it yourself. It will be cut down the center, so place the insulation tube around the pipe, but first peel off tape found on both sides of the edges and stick the two together, working your way down the tube. Use duct tape to secure the tube every three feet.

If you go out of town and the weather turns cold before you return, the pipes may freeze. In that case, use a hair dryer to thaw them. Better yet, turn off the water line before you go out of town when there's a chance of freezing temperatures. Pipes that burst can cost a pretty penny in plumber's fees.

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