What You Need to Know About Plumbing Winterization

Icicles on Outdoor Pipes

As all of us here in the windy city ready our homes for the coming winter months ahead, we want to remind you not to neglect your water system.  Every home should winterize plumbing pipes, a process that prepares household plumbing for those freezing temperatures that are just looking to seep in and wreak havoc.  From leaks to breaks, the freezing temperatures will show no mercy to those left unprepared!  

Plumbing winterization is absolutely essential because, as you already know, when water freezes, it expands.  This expansion can produce great pressure within your pipes and cause massive amounts of damage to your home.  All it takes is just a short period of exposure to 32 degrees or below, and your pipes run the risk of fracturing or worse.  

Fortunately, the winterizing process is simple enough and only takes a few spare moments to complete.  So, when the time comes, all you have to do is empty the water heater, drain all water from your pipes and fill all of your fixtures with antifreeze solution.  It’s really that easy!  

Let’s break it down, now, and take a look at specific precautions for you to take in order to protect your home this winter.

Winterization Prep

The first thing you need to do to prepare your home is simply to make a step-by-step plan for winterizing your plumbing.  This is important, because it is all-too easy to miss a vital step that might cost you down the road.  So, make a checklist of all parts of your house that will need to be prepared, including all taps and valves, with the following steps:   

  • Step 1: Shut off your main water valve, including the water pump and water heater.  This action protects heating elements in your water heater when there is no water inside the tank.  
  • Step 2: Open all drain valves and taps.  If left closed, your pipe could create a vacuum that would hold water inside of the pipes.  You do not want this!  If water sits in your pipes, it could freeze and crack the pipe.  Make sure that all valves and taps remain open throughout the cold, winter months.    
  • Step 3: Use an air compressor to blow out any excess water that may be standing in your pipes.  
  • Step 4: Open your hot water tank’s drain valve, and let it discharge until completely empty.   
  • Step 5: Drain any water left sitting in the holding tank.  This includes the one located in the rubber diaphragm.  You may also want to add antifreeze to the jet pump case as an added protective measure.  
  • Step 6: Flush your toilets to remove as much water as possible from the tanks and bowls.  If water is still left, add antifreeze to prevent it from freezing and cracking.
  • Step 7: Check all sink and tub drains.  Some have drain traps.  Add antifreeze on each one, again, to ensure water won’t freeze and crack.

Prevent Freezing Pipes

Once you’ve gone through your checklist, take a moment to check the conditions of your plumbing, making sure to identify places that may be vulnerable to freezing.  To do this, you’ll want to look for pipes that may be located outside of walls and windows, as well as under sinks and cabinets, that are uninsulated and near unheated spaces.   Then, walk around the interior and exterior of your property, checking for cracks in your floors, ceilings, and walls.  If you find cracks or holes, close them up with caulk to prevent cold air from seeping through the gaps.  

Follow these tips to prevent your pipes from freezing:

  • Insulate exposed pipes (especially those made of copper or steel) with insulation.  You can use insulation sleeves, slip-on foam pipe insulation or simply wrap them.  Whatever you do, don’t leave any gaps uninsulated because the cold air can and will affect your pipes in these spaces.  And don’t forget about those hose spigots.  
  • Keep your home constantly heated to protect your pipes from freezing.
  • Keep your faucets dripping so that you have a continuous flow of water.  Free-flowing water prevents freezing.
  • Insulate all crawl spaces, and block all vents that may lead to the outside of your home to prevent warm air from leaking out and cold air from creeping in.  

When it comes to prevention, a little planning and winterization preparation will go a long way.  Of course, if you have any questions or concerns at all, give one of our trusty Tritan team members a call.  We’ll work with you to make sure that you and your home stay protected this winter.  


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