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The Most Common Winter Plumbing Problems (And How To Prevent Them)


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Winters in Raleigh can be pretty chilly, especially at night when temperatures can frequently drop below freezing levels. And it’s during the wintertime that your home’s plumbing system is at its most vulnerable. However, there are many ways you can prevent plumbing issues from happening in your home by taking a few preventative measures. Here are the most common plumbing problems you may encounter during the winter.

Frozen Pipes

Whether inside or outside your home, frozen pipes can cause major problems. When pipes become frozen, they run the risk of bursting, leading to extensive water damage in your home. A few signs that you may have frozen pipes include washing machines no longer draining, faucets not turning on, and showers no longer working the way they should. A few ways to prevent this are:

  • Letting the faucet drip – This step keeps water moving instead of freezing in place. It also helps to relieve water pressure to prevent pipes from bursting.
  • Leave cabinets open – Leaving the cabinets underneath your sink open allows the heat in your home to circulate around the exposed pipes, keeping them from freezing.
  • Insulate your pipes – Pipe insulation helps to keep them warm, reducing the likelihood of freezing.
  • Have a pressure relief valve installed – If your pipes do freeze, a pressure relief valve will help prevent a burst from occurring.

Clogged Kitchen Drains

Food remains are one of the leading causes of blocked kitchen drains. From peels and eggshells to oily foods and coffee grounds, foods can cause severe obstructions in your drain. Even with a garbage disposal, grease and oil can still get through and coat the inside of your drain. When winter comes, this coating can solidify, causing clogging. To prevent this from happening, you can do these precautions:

  • Avoid putting certain foods, such as grease, coffee grounds, and more, down your garbage disposal.
  • Clean your garbage disposal regularly.
  • Flush your garbage disposal with cold water after every use.

Water Heater Troubles

With the incoming cold, you can expect to put your water heater to work double-time as the demand for how water increases. Usually, this shouldn’t make a huge difference in your ability to access hot water throughout the day. Still, there is a possibility that you may experience water heater failure if maintenance hasn’t been performed on it in a long while. These are some ways you can prep your water heater to avoid such issues:

  • Perform a maintenance check – Whether by a professional or on your own, be sure to check that your water heater is in optimal condition, like removing sediment buildup. For tankless water heaters, you’ll want to clean out the air intake filter.
  • Insulate pipes – This step will prevent your pipes from freezing.
  • Insulate water heater – Using a water heater blanket can prevent heat loss from your water heater.

Frozen Septic Tank

One of the more severe plumbing issues, a frozen septic tank occurs when it isn’t covered with enough soil to keep it insulated. As a result, you may experience sewage backups. While it’s best to consult with a professional plumber to prevent this from happening, there are some measurements you can take on your own, including:

  • Put less strain on your system – Not only can this save you money on water bills, but it also reduces the risk of septic tank issues. To reduce strain, take shorter showers and use your garbage disposal less frequently.
  • Check for soil erosion – Fill in areas that appear to need coverage, but avoid compressing the soil as that will put pressure on your septic tank.
  • Avoid putting pressure over the septic field – In other words, do not park or drive over this area to avoid compacting the soil as compacted soil freezes faster.

Basement Flooding

Busted pipes and leaks aren’t the only issues that cause flooding. After there’s been days or weeks of heavy snowfall suddenly followed by warmer days, the melting snow can also cause flooding in basements. To avoid basement flooding, you can:

  • Clean outdoor drainage systems – Clear your drainage system from any obstructions to prevent water from accumulating.
  • Perform an inspection of your sump pump – This step will confirm it’s in working condition.
  • Remove snow off your roof – Less snow on or around your home means surrounding your home’s foundation as snow melts.

Sump Pump Backups

It’s one thing to experience flooding, but it’s another to experience issues with the very component meant to prevent flooding. With heavy snowfall comes the possibility of overworking your sump pump. It’s also possible for water to freeze in your sump pump as well. These steps can help prevent this from occurring:

  • Maintain a clean sump pump at all times
  • Test your sump pump to make sure it’s working
  • Keep your basement warm to avoid water in your sump pump from freezing

Damaged Outdoor Pipes

Frozen, busted, or otherwise damaged exterior pipes can go unnoticed for quite some time since they are usually “out of sight and out of mind.” When these problems are gone undetected long enough, they can cause serious foundational damage and mess up other plumbing pipe lines in the process. Keeping them insulated is a great way to prevent them from freezing.

Avoid Plumbing Problems No Matter the Season!

These preventative measures can help save your home from the disastrous effects winter can have on your plumbing system. To ensure that you go through your winter without a hitch, it’s best to call in the help of a professional plumber to perform proper maintenance and repair services if needed.

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