With the winds of winter barrelling down on DC, many homeowners worry about the dangers of frozen pipes. This is especially true here in our neighborhood, as many of the lovely homes in Shepherd Park and Takoma were built in the 1930’s and 1940’s when insulation was not up to modern standards and water pipes were made with copper or brittle galvanized steel. According a report by the Hartford Insurance Company, the average claim for damage from a frozen pipe is a staggering $18,000. No one wants to spend that kind of money to replace drywall, carpet and damaged furniture that could have been prevented with a little forward thinking. Follow these steps to reduce the risk of a flood in your basement this winter.
Drain the pipes that lead to any outside water spigots
When the first frost of the season hits, one of the first tasks on my “honey-do” list is to drain the pipes that supply the outdoor spigots in our home. I’m not going wash the car or water the lawn much in January, so there is no need to expose this source of water to the harsh winter temperatures. It only takes a few minutes to turn off the shut-off value for these spigots and let the remaining water drip away. As an added measure of protection, I cover the empty spigots with these really inexpensive faucet covers.
Insulate exposed piping
These days, every home improvement store sells many varieties of pipe insulation, such as this one from The Home Depot. The best part is that this product is super easy to install if your pipes are in a location that is accessible. A small investment in dollars can pay off in a major way.
Open cabinet doors
In our home, we have multiple plumbing fixtures whose supply pipes run against the outside walls of the house. One easy way to protect these hidden pipes from the dangers of freezing is to open the cabinet doors underneath the sinks. The warm air from the room can be just enough to keep those pipes from bursting.
Let your faucets drip when temps drop below freezing.
When a serious cold front hits, go on the attack against mother nature and open your faucets just enough to let the water drip out slowly. While this goes against everything you’ve ever learned about water conservation, doing this decreases the pressure build-up inside your pipes and lowers the chance that frozen water will expand outward and burst your pipes. The few extra dollars in “wasted” water is good insurance against a catastrophic flooding event.
If you have extended travel planned, drain your system completely.
Nothing could be worse than coming home from a nice winter vacation, only to find your basement covered in three feet of icy cold water. Prevent this by closing the water shut-off valve where the water enters your home and draining the existing water from wherever it may be stored in your system. This may involve finding the lowest sink or faucet in your home and letting the water drain until it stops. This is called “winterizing”. Banks hire companies do this for foreclosed properties that they own, but you can do this yourself with a few minutes of time.