Winter is right around the corner here in Minnesota, and if you’ve lived here a while, you know how crucial proper winterization really is. When temperatures plummet, your home’s plumbing system is vulnerable to damage, and to protect it, you must be proactive about inspecting, cleaning, and insulating your pipes.

If you’re not sure how to get started, we’ve got you covered. Continue reading to learn about the steps you should take to prepare your drains and plumbing system for winter weather.

Get a Drain Camera Inspection

If you’ve been having drain issues or are worried about your plumbing system’s health for any reason, it’s a good idea to schedule an inspection with a drain cleaning specialist.

This inspection can identify areas where buildup and developing drain clogs pose a risk to your pipes. At Drain Blaster Bill, we specialize in camera drain inspections—the most efficient method of detecting blockages and buildup.

To perform the inspection, we simply insert a high-definition camera into your drain openings and examine the interior of your pipes to identify existing or potential issues. Once located, we can easily remove accumulated debris before it forms a significant and potentially damaging drain blockage during winter.

We can also look for areas of damage, deterioration, and corrosion that could negatively impact your plumbing system and make it more vulnerable to winter-related damage (leaks and bursting). If we see any areas of concern, we’ll let you know and offer advice on the best course of action for addressing the issue(s).

Getting damaged pipes repaired before winter sets in is one of the simplest things you can do to prevent sudden and unexpected water damage caused by frozen plumbing.

If You’re Leaving, Drain Your Pipes

If you plan to head south for the winter, you’ll need to drain your pipes completely before you go. Draining your plumbing system helps ensure stagnant water within the pipes does not freeze and expand while you’re away.

Because water expands as it turns to ice, it creates pressure within your plumbing. And as that pressure grows, it can force a leak in your pipe or, worse, burst the pipe completely. If you’re gone all winter, you likely won’t know there’s been a leak until you return home in the spring, or until a nice neighbor notices a problem.

Unfortunately, by the time you’re aware of the problem, even a small leak can cause extensive water damage to your home. Here’s how to properly drain your pipes.

Shut Off Your Main Water Valve

If you don’t know where to find your home’s main water valve, look near your water meter—it’s typically located somewhere in the same vicinity. Turn the valve until it is fully closed, meaning the handle is adjacent to the main water line.

Open Faucets to Drain Your Pipes

Once you’ve closed the valve, turn on every faucet in your home. Leave the faucets open and let them run until water stops flowing.

Empty Toilet Drains

Flush every toilet in your house to clear standing water from the toilet bowls and tanks. If a small amount of water remains in the toilet, that’s fine. You can add a plumbing system antifreeze to ensure any remaining water won’t freeze while you’re away.

Be aware that if your toilet drains are completely empty, they may allow sewer odors to waft into your bathrooms while you’re away. The standing water that normally sits in the drain is what prevents gasses from wafting up through the pipes.

Once you’ve cleared all the water from within your plumbing system, leave your main water valve in the closed position until you return home in spring.

Have Your Drains Professionally Cleaned

Before temperatures plummet, it’s important to make sure your drains are completely free of debris buildup. Neglecting to have your drains cleaned before winter can end in disaster if minor clogs have already formed. When debris prevents water from moving smoothly through your pipes, backed-up water can freeze within the pipe, potentially creating leaks near your pipes’ joints and seals.

To ensure your water flows smoothly all winter long, we can perform a camera drain inspection to find existing buildup. Once we find problematic areas within your pipes, we’ll then complete a thorough drain cleaning to remove all traces of debris.

What exactly does this cleaning entail? Check out our blog, Professional Drain Cleaning: What to Expect to learn more.

Insulate Exposed Pipes

To protect vulnerable pipes from sub-zero temperatures, you must make sure your pipes are properly insulated. When temperatures drop, poorly insulated or uninsulated plumbing allows water to freeze and expand within your pipes, potentially leading to leaks or burst pipes. Even if you only install temporary insulation, a little protection is better than nothing at all.

To quickly and easily insulate your plumbing before winter, simply purchase foam insulation from your local hardware store. Measure your pipes and cut the insulation according to your measurements. After wrapping your pipes, you can secure the insulation using duct tape or zip ties to ensure it stays put throughout the winter.

Frozen water can also cause your plumbing to behave as though it contains a drain blockage. If you suspect ice within your pipes is causing water to drain slowly, try pouring hot water down your drain or heating the exterior of the pipe with a hairdryer.

Leave Cabinet Doors Open

This isn’t necessarily a preparatory step, but it’s something you should practice throughout the winter season nonetheless. If you have any cabinets that contain pipes (like the cabinets under your kitchen and/or bathroom sink, for example) leave the doors open, especially on very cold days and at night.

Keeping the cabinet doors ajar will allow warm air to circulate around the pipes that pass through the cabinet, reducing the chance that water will freeze inside the drain. 

Disconnect Garden Hoses and Shut Off Outdoor Faucets

Outdoor faucets are particularly susceptible to damage during winter since they’re directly exposed to the cold. And if you leave those faucets’ valves open and they’re near the outer wall of your house, an unexpected freeze could damage them. If that happens, you’ll have no way to stop the flow of water out of the faucet.

To prevent this situation from occurring, close the outdoor water shut-off valve, which is likely located on the inside of the wall where the outdoor faucet sits. If you have any garden hoses still hooked up, detach them from the faucets and drain any water left inside.

Finally — and this is critical — turn the outdoor faucets to the open position to allow any remaining water in the supply pipes to drain out. If you don’t do this, any standing water that remains between the faucet and the shut-off valve can freeze, and when it does, it’ll expand. If there’s a good amount of water in there, it may end up bursting the pipe.

Schedule Drain Cleaning Service in the Twin Cities

Before winter sets in, it’s critical that you prepare your plumbing for freezing temperatures. At Drain Blaster Bill’s Sewer & Drain Cleaning, we specialize in several residential drain cleaning services to ensure your plumbing remains in proper working order year-round. We know that winter can wreak havoc on any plumbing system, and we’re here to help you avoid unexpected damages and expenses.

To learn more about the drain cleaning services we offer or get a cleaning estimate, feel free to call our Stillwater, MN office at 763-913-8719. You can also request a free estimate online, and we’ll get in touch with more info!