You wake and stretch. Outside the window a gentle snow is falling. The first snow of the season. It’s going to be a wonderful day at home, reading a book and drinking coffee while the fire in the hearth crackles and pops. You put on your robe and slippers, shuffling off to a hot shower to start the day. Opening the door to the bathroom you hear the sound of water. But it’s not in the shower. It’s all over the floor. And an inch deep.
Broken pipes will ruin any day. They can happen anytime but most often in the winter. Cold weather is not the friend of your plumbing. Your friends at Sinclair offer you these tips to keep your pipes from breaking.
Before the cold weather hits, be sure your pipes are insulated. Pipes that are outside or run along the exterior wall of the home are most vulnerable to freezing. Pipes that pass through unheated crawl spaces are also at risk.
Home supply stores sell prefab pipe insulation. Foam sleeves slit down the middle that simply slide over the pipe. Be sure all pipes are covered from exposure to the cold air. Remember that insulation only slows down the transfer of cold. It doesn’t create heat. If you are expecting long periods of sustained freezing temperatures, you’ll need more than a simple insulation.
It sounds simple enough, but DO NOT attempt to rig your own power tape. Purchase an approved product with an Underwriters Laboratory rating. A do it yourself heating wire could cause a fire.
Insulating your pipes is only part of the plan. Look for any gaps or openings that allow cold air to enter your home. For example, if you live in an older home check under your kitchen and bathroom sinks. It may be that the openings in the drywall for the plumbing are too big, allowing cold air in. If the door to your sink cabinet is closed, as it likely is, cold air is accumulating under the sink while the rest of your home is toasty warm. If you have gaps, seal them with an expanding spray foam insulation. It will fill all the cracks and keep the cold air at bay. If you’re still nervous, open your sink cabinet slightly to let the heat of the room surround your pipes on the cold night.
If you’re going to be away on an overnight trip, consider leaving your faucets on a very slow drip. This keeps the water moving in your pipes just enough to help prevent freezing.