Winter and Your Plumbing

Winter can really do a number on your home’s plumbing. If you have outside spigots or pipes running through exterior walls, the potential for damage to your home can be exponentially greater as temperatures dip below freezing. Issues like burst pipes, frozen faucets, and clogged drain lines can make the simplest household chores impossible to do, leaving you with no choice but to call in the professionals.

Outside plumbing and pipes in exterior walls are particularly at risk for freezing and cracking in the cold. Once the temperature reaches 32 degrees Fahrenheit or below, your exposed or poorly insulated pipes in garages, basements, and crawl spaces are particularly vulnerable to freezing. Burst pipes can potentially cause thousands of dollars in damage to your home and property. It can also create conditions ideal for the growth of mold and mildew throughout your home. These situations don’t always present themselves with a mighty bang, either. A slow leak can cause more damage than one that makes itself known right away; by the time you find the damage to a slow, sneaky leak, there could be floors, walls, and fixtures to replace as well.

Preventing Winter Frost From Taking Over

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In this case, making sure your outside plumbing and exposed pipes are ready for the cold will ensure that your winter is much less eventful than it might have been otherwise. Take these simple steps to make sure that you and your plumbing are protected, and look forward to free-flowing water all season long.

Shut Off Outdoor Faucets If Possible

Outdoor faucets generally aren’t needed in the wintertime. To prevent slow drips from turning into expansive ice, turn off outdoor faucets at their shutoff valves. Drain existing water out of the pipes leading outside by leaving the bleeder cap wide open with a bucket placed underneath to catch any runoff. If you notice that dripping continues, your main shutoff valve may need to be replaced.

Have Frost-Free Sill Cocks Installed

The working parts of a frost-free sill cock are located at least 18 inches inside a wall rather than right at a faucet. If these sill cocks are properly installed with a slight downward angle, water is able to drain from the pipe every time you turn off the knob at the faucet. This gives no room for ice to freeze and form an obstruction in your pipe.

Disconnect Hoses

Water-filled hoses that are left out in the cold will most certainly freeze. If the hose is still connected to an outside faucet, ice can back up into the pipes inside your house, causing them to crack or burst. Disconnect all hoses from outside faucets and drain them to prevent a spring mess.

Consider Outdoor Faucet Covers

An insulated cover for your outdoor faucet helps to slow heat loss from a pipe as it travels through the wall and becomes exposed to the cold. This is a very simple fix to prevent what could become a very costly repair.


Pipe insulation is a fairly inexpensive preventative measure you can take to prevent pipes from freezing and cracking. Consider having insulation added to pipes that lay in unheated areas like the attic, basement, crawl spaces, and garage. Exterior pipes that lay under cabinetry are also at risk for freezing in the winter; ask your plumbing professional which type of insulation will work best for exterior pipes and other vulnerable plumbing components.

Install a Smart Thermostat

Thanks to the modern technology of a smart thermostat, you can set and control your home’s temperature from any smart device. If you notice that the temperature in your house drops, you’ll get an email or text alert, allowing you to reset your desired temperature levels to prevent potential plumbing issues.

Have Rim Joists Sealed Properly

Rim joists butt up against the end of flooring joists and wrap around the perimeter of a floor structure. Because they are often near exterior walls, these joists are a common area for cold to leak into your home. To prevent this, you can seal up cracks and holes using expandable foam, making sure that your home is properly insulated between floor joists as well. Be mindful of isolating pipes from available heat in your house, and inspect areas where cables and wires are coming in through an exterior wall. Any action that you can take to seal up air leaks will significantly impact the inner temperature of your home and help protect your exterior plumbing at the same time.

Let Faucets Drip….A Little

Even a small amount of water moving through your pipes is enough to keep ice from forming. As temperatures dip outside, let faucets that are served by outside or exposed pipes run just slightly. Leaving these faucets on a slow trickle will help to relieve pressure inside the pipes and help prevent rupturing if part of your line freezes.

Shut Off Main Water Lines Before Leaving for Vacation

If you are leaving town for more than an overnight stay, consider turning your water off at the main shutoff valve. If your pipes do crack, you’ll find yourself with far less damage than if water were allowed to flow freely through your system.

Install Heating Cable

A heating cable is a heating element that can be installed to run the length of your pipes. Plugging easily into any wall outlet, these cables can affix to your pipes with electrician’s tape and provide a simple solution to prevent ice from forming in your vulnerable plumbing and fixtures. Heating cables are available in sizes ranging from 3 feet to nearly 30 feet long. If you have questions about installation, ask a qualified plumbing professional to tackle the job.

Keep Temperatures Steady During Cold Snaps

Keep your home heated at a consistent temperature during cold weather. This keeps water coming into and flowing out of your home at more consistent temperatures as well, preventing those temperature fluctuations that may make ice formation easier. In some cases, this may involve overriding the settings on your smart thermostat, but it’s easier to justify spending a little more on energy to prevent costly issues from a broken pipe.

Consider Adding Insulation to Garages and Porches

If you have water lines running through your garage or seasonal porch, you might consider adding insulation to these rooms to keep temperatures warmer. Portable heaters work great for those nights when subzero temps take hold; however, make sure you keep them away from all flammable materials or textiles that could easily catch fire.

We’re Here To Help!

HB Home Service Team has been proudly servicing the residents of Randallstown and other central Maryland communities since 1914! Starting with the simple vision of serving our neighbors and keeping them comfortable, our reach has since expanded to heating and cooling, plumbing, indoor air quality, and well-pump services. Keeping your home and property in top-notch condition this winter is a priority for us. Call today to schedule a plumbing inspection and winterization service for your outdoor pipes.

HB Home Service Team

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