Secure Your Summer Home Plumbing Before Leaving for Winter

Outdoor Faucet with Icicles

When leaving your vacation home at the end of summer, one of the last things you may be thinking about is the coming winter.  But, before you close out, winterizing your summer home plumbing should be at the top of your list, as failing to do so can lead to serious damage.  And, worst of all, you won’t even be there to know if something happens.

If you’re headed back home for the winter, there are several things that you’ll need to do to help protect your vacation home from extreme drops in temperature while you’re away.  Frozen pipes can lead to burst pipes which can create devastating water damage. So, take the time to prepare your home from possible threats while you’re away for an extended period of time.  Otherwise, you won’t recognize your summer getaway when you return next season.

How to Winterize Your Summer Home Plumbing

Contrary to popular belief, pipes don’t burst at the point where they first start freezing.  They actually burst somewhere between the freeze point and a closed faucet, like your kitchen faucet, the pipe connecting to your washing machine, etc.  This means that when pressure builds due to ice blockage, it has nowhere to go but through the pipe walls. That’s what leads to extensive water damage and why it’s so important to winterize your home plumbing to stop frozen pipes before they happen.    

So, follow these steps to properly insulate your pipes before you close out your summer home for the season, and avoid costly water damage: 

  • Turn off the water supply – To protect your pipes and avoid potential water damage, consider completely turning your home’s water supply off.  Start by turning off the water meter with the meter key. If you’re not sure how to do this, contact your plumber to have it turned off prior to leaving the property.  But, you’re not going to want to turn off the water supply if your home is protected by a fire sprinkler system. Also, if your home is heated by an older steam heating system, you’ll need to consult with your heating professional in order to determine if shutting of the water is safe for your particular situation.    
  • Drain the pipes – Once you turn the water supply off, open all of your home’s faucets to completely drain your pipes, and flush your toilets to clear the water from the tanks and bowls.  If there is any remaining water in the tanks and bowls, you may want to consider pouring antifreeze in to prevent the remaining droplets from freezing and cracking. Just be sure that if you use a solution that it’s non-toxic and rated for plumbing systems.
  • Confirm all drainage – If you want to make extra certain that your pipes have been completely and properly drained, call in your trusty plumber to blow compressed air through the pipes.  
  • Wrap your pipes – Whether you plan to shut the water supply off or not, it may be smart to wrap your pipes as well if you know your home will be exposed to extreme temperatures.  So, consider wrapping all exterior pipes as well as those in unheated areas of your vacation home with polyurethane or fiberglass pipe insulation. You can use spray foam insulation to fill in the gaps around outdoor spigots.  Just make sure to turn off or remove any back-flow prevention devices from your faucets before insulating them.
  • Keep the furnace running – If you decide not to turn your water supply off and drain your pipes, you’ll need to ensure your pipes stays warm by keeping the furnace running.  This will prevent freezing from happening. You’ll want to make sure that everything stays at 55°F or higher to help keep the interior of the floor and wall cavities above freezing temperatures.
  • Open cabinet doors – Just as you would in your own home during extreme temperatures, if you’re not shutting the water off, you should leave all doors and cabinet doors open to help circulate and warm all areas where pipes are located.  
  • Shut off water to appliances – Even if you’re not shutting the entire water supply off, you should at least shut if off to your washing machines and dishwashers (if possible).  This will help prevent leaks and broken hoses while you’re away.
  • Drain outdoor faucets – Consider shutting off and draining all outdoor water faucets to prevent damage from freezing.  
  • Install an alarm system – Since you would have no way of know if something were to go wrong with your plumbing system while you’re away for months at a time, consider installing an alarm system.  There are water flow sensors and low-temperature sensors that can be put into place on your main water supply pipe that can be hooked into a constantly monitored alarm system that you can check through your smartphone.  

By following these steps and thinking ahead, you’ll be able to protect your summer home plumbing from the cold winter weather, and stop water damage from destroying your seasonal getaway. 


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