After a slow start, winter has really settled in with heavy snow, temperatures below freezing, and the sound of shovels and snow plows scraping over snow- covered roadways. It brings back old problems like freezing pipes, and some homes with septic systems may have additional problems like frozen ground causing sump pits to overflow. There are some basic precautions you can take to avoid these problems, but there are times when you just have to call in a professional plumbing service to deal with leaks, floods and jobs like septic disposal.
Frozen pipes are the homeowner’s winter nightmare
It’s an insidious problem that can be very unpredictable. As temperatures drop below freezing, water in the pipes freezes as well. As most people learn in their high school chemistry classes, water expands in volume when it freezes, putting more pressure on the pipes, whether they’re made of plastic or metal. This can cause them to develop leaks or even burst.
While it’s pipes in unheated areas like basements, attics, garages and crawl spaces that are more vulnerable to freezing, it can happen anywhere. Pipes that run alongside exterior walls may also freeze. The first sign that something is wrong can be an ominous leak. You may also notice that your water supply has suddenly stopped. In really bad cases, the pipes will burst, flooding the rooms. For such emergencies, it’s best to call in the professionals. They can handle these and other major tasks like septic disposal.
How to prevent emergencies
Before your pipes freeze and you find yourself dealing with a full-scale emergency, there are a number of steps you can take to prevent the problem from developing in the first place. Adding insulation to unheated areas like basements, crawl spaces and attics will keep the pipes from freezing. Another benefit of insulating these areas is that they will help to moderate the temperatures in your home in the summer as well as winter, keeping it more evenly cooled or heated as the case may be.
As a second line of defense, you can insulate the pipes themselves, using specially designed pipe sleeves. At a pinch, you can improvise your with insulating materials with old newspapers, fleece or or foam. In extreme cold, you may want to leave a tap dripping. Running water, even a very slow drip, will keep the pipes and plumbing from freezing.
What to do if your pipes are frozen
There are some warning signs you will see if the pipes in your home are frozen. When you turn on the faucet, you may not get any water at all, or just a trickle. Or you may notice leaks in exposed pipes or even in ceilings. Water may be dripping from a leak onto a bathroom floor. In really bad cases, if the freezing has caused pipes to burst, you’ll have a flood of water on the floor. This happens most commonly in basements.
If it’s a simple problem, you may be able to fix it on your own. Just leaving the faucet on may coax the water into running again. You can help it by applying gentle heat to the pipes, using a hair dryer or a portable space heater with a fan. Or you can wrap the pipes in towels soaked in hot water. Leaks and floods are not a problem that you can handle yourself, and in that situation it’s best to call in a plumber. Plumbing services are best equipped to handle all kinds of emergencies and big jobs like burst pipes, badly clogged drains and septic disposal.
There are many wonderful things about winter but frozen pipes are not among them. However, with a few precautions and some sensible planning, you don’t have to be at the mercy of the elements when it comes to protecting your household plumbing. In fact, it’s a good idea to know about good plumbers in your area so you can call on them for emergencies or routine jobs like septic disposal.