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Winter Plumbing Tips

Thanksgiving and Christmas are just a few weeks away, and you know what that means—winter weather is finally here! Prepping your home for the winter isn’t just something you should do; it’s something you need to do. If you want to avoid burst pipes and leaking toilets, winterize your plumbing before the temperature really starts to fall.

Weatherproofing your home is smart to do, especially when you live in a place like the southeast region of Wisconsin. Ensure that your home’s plumbing and other house amenities are ready to face freezing temperatures so that you and your family will not have to deal with the consequences of the cold with these tips:

What Plumbing Fixtures Are at Risk in the Winter?


Everyone’s heard about pipes freezing during the winter, and unfortunately, anyone can be at risk for this kind of disaster. Some people use the slow drip method to keep their pipes from freezing, while others opt to wrap their pipes with insulation. The problem is that some of your pipes are hidden, out of reach, or close to a cold draft. When the water in your pipes freezes, the ice can cause pipes to expand, crack, break -- causing a rush of water to go where it doesn’t belong. You don’t want this kind of water damage in your home or leaking into your foundations. When the water freezes in your pipes, turn off the water at the main valve and call a plumber.

Clogged Drains

Even though it is best to pay attention all year, it is crucial to pay attention to how food particles can accumulate easily in your pipes during the holidays. If you don’t have a garbage disposal, it is best to throw any food particles in the trash before washing your dishes. Even with the use of garbage disposals, grease can stick to your pipes and lead to clogging. To prevent this, use a drain screen to catch any extra particles before they go down the drain.

Clogged drains are more prevalent during the winter due to a variety of factors like frozen drainpipes. If there’s grease in the drain, the cold weather can cause it to harden and back up. Not only does it make drainage hard, but it can be damaging as well! After all, nobody wants a clogged drain for the holidays, so calling a professional for drain cleaning is your best bet to solve this messy problem.

Water Heaters

Everyone loves a hot shower on a cold day, but your water heater works harder to heat the water when the temperature drops. If your water heater is between 8-12 years old, it may be time for a new one. If your hot water is just room temperature or fluctuates during use, you should call your local plumber to diagnose a potential issue. The problem may be something as simple as a thermostat replacement, but things can always get murky.

Additionally, if you find yourself without hot water, you must determine the type of water heater you own before finding a solution. Gas and electric water heater units will have different solutions to a lack of hot water. It is best to have your unit inspected by a professional from a reputable plumbing company in your area. They will determine if your unit is repairable or needs to be replaced.

Prepping Your Home for Cold Weather

Insulate your pipes.

Once the temperature drops below 20 degrees, your pipes are very susceptible to freezing. Insulating your pipes doesn’t mean they can’t freeze, but it does give you a bit more security when the temperature drops. For many homeowners, the use of insulation is often very beneficial, especially around certain areas such as the water heater.

Let the water drip.

Winter is probably the only time we’ll tell you to let the faucet run. If you’re expecting a cold front to come through and you’re worried about your pipes, allow a small amount of water to drip from your faucet. Because flowing water is less likely than still water to freeze, this can also help keep your pipes from freezing. But remember, this is just for extreme and short-lived cold fronts — don’t leave your faucet to drip for days or weeks.

Open your cabinets on cold days.

Most of the pipes in your home sit behind the wall — areas that heat doesn’t reach. On cold days, open up your cabinet doors so that heat can reach your back walls.

Disconnect outdoor hoses.

A hose left outside in the winter is susceptible to cracking, punctures, and freezing. Shut off the water that leads to the outdoor faucet and remove the sprayer nozzle from the hose’s end (if one’s attached).

Install Storm Doors and Windows

Installing a storm door can increase energy efficiency by 45 percent by stopping drafts. Storm doors also allow warm sunlight to enter your home, further reducing your heating costs.

Also, storm windows can help when the cold weather arrives. They eliminate drafts around windows, and heat cannot escape as easily.

Use Radiant Heat Tiles

Consider installing radiant heat tiles for bathrooms and kitchens. Radiant heat tiles distribute heat and can eliminate the feeling that a room doesn’t have enough heat. Most people tend to think the whole room is cold when just the floor is cold, which will cause them to turn up the thermostat.

Dealing with a Burst Pipe

Perhaps the biggest winter nightmare (next to the credit card bill after Christmas, of course) is a burst pipe. Your first step would be to locate the main water valve and shut off the water immediately if this does happen. Unlike a small leak, a burst pipe can cause damage very quickly. Shutting off the water won’t reverse the damage that’s already been done, but it will prevent the problem from getting worse. A burst pipe will require the assistance of a professional plumber.

Learn more about your plumbing in winter with our other blogs:

Mr. Rooter Plumbing has been assisting homeowners with their plumbing issues for decades, and our expertise is unmatched! To learn more, give us a call at (262) 320-4822 or request an estimate online!

John DonovanAbout the Author: John Donovan, Mr. Rooter Plumbing of Southeast WI

John has been a trusted plumber and owner of Mr. Rooter Plumbing of Southeast WI since 2006. With over 19 years to back him, John has experience with a wide range of plumbing related solutions and systems. He and his team specialize in pipeline restoration, utilizing minimally invasive state of the art technologies. He and his team have also demonstrated expertise in drainline diagnostics and resolving drainage issues.