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How to Winterize Your House's Plumbing – Get Your Pipes Ready for Winter


A modern control panel for a gas furnace

When it comes to preparing for winter, one of the things you should consider when winterizing your house is the plumbing system. Did you know that when water freezes, it expands by as much as 9 percent in volume? If this expansion occurs in your pipes it could lead them to rupture, which can cause a lot of damage and be costly to repair. This is why it is essential that you know how to winterize a house’s plumbing.

We are a leading Alberta energy company. Whether you need to winterize pipes or find out how to get the most out of your energy usage, we are here to help. Below you’ll find five steps on how to winterize your house’s plumbing to help you rest easy during the cold months ahead.

Before You Begin: Formulate a Plan

Before you begin to winterize your plumbing, you need to create a plan. This may be one of the more important winter plumbing tips you can get. Running around the house with duct tape and foam insulation looking for exposed pipes may help your cause, but it’s not exactly productive. Since every house is unique, you should start by obtaining a clear understanding of how the plumbing inside your house is set up. If necessary, call a plumber for help, but you’ll need to know:

  • Where your pipes are located
  • Which pipes are exposed to the cold
  • How to get to the pipes
  • What protective steps may already be in place

After you’ve done that, your winter preparation will be much easier.

1. Insulate Your Pipes

Now that you understand which pipes are vulnerable to cold exposure you can winterize your home's pipes accordingly. It's always a good idea to buy some fitted insulation for your pipes. This material is often made of closed-cell polyethylene foam or rubber. The insulation comes with a slit down one side so you can fit it over the pipes you want to insulate. This material should help protect your pipes and keep them from freezing.

In addition, you may want to consider wrapping your pipes in heat tape before applying the insulation. This will add an extra layer of protection and will form a nice seal in case something happens to the insulation. Wrap the insulation in another coat of tape. Be sure to do this for all pipes that are exposed to the outside and those that exist in attics, crawl spaces or garages.

2. Fix Exterior Wall Cracks

Another effective way to winterize your plumbing is to make sure that your exterior walls are properly sealed. Spend some time before winter thoroughly inspecting all exterior walls and the roof. Have a licensed contractor inspect with you. If you find any cracks or any areas where cold air can penetrate, seal them. This will prevent cold air from getting in and freezing your pipes, particularly in areas where you can't get the insulation to pipes.

3. Insulate More "Open" Areas

The living spaces in Alberta homes are insulated so everyone can enjoy the warm indoors during the cold winter months. However, there are “open” areas of every home that are not as heavily insulated as other parts. Check the following areas for proper insulation:

  • Garage
  • Attic
  • Basement – in particular, the windows
  • Crawl spaces

There could either be gaps in the insulation or no insulation at all in these areas. You’ll need to ensure there’s enough insulation so cold air cannot get in and wreak havoc on your pipes.

Let Your Faucets Drip

Allowing your faucets to drip may not sound like a good idea, but when it comes to winterizing a house's plumbing, it can go a long way towards preventing damage. When the temperature drops allow a small trickle of water to drip from any faucets that are attached to susceptible pipes to prevent them from freezing.

5. Open Your Cabinets

When it comes to winterizing pipes, opening the cabinets under your sinks could be helpful when it gets cold outside. Doing this allows the warm air in your home to reach the area under the sink and warm up the pipes, potentially preventing them from freezing.

Other Ideas to Consider

When winterizing your home you should also take care of the exterior plumbing fixtures. Disconnect garden hoses, shut off the exterior water valve, and open faucets to allow them to drain. You should also winterize your sprinklers. Overall, the question of how to winterize your house's plumbing comes down to your home's plumbing system and how prepared you want to be. We wish you the best for a safe, warm and repair-free winter.