Plumbing Tips

Winterization: Protecting your pipes for the winter

River City Plumbing - Tips

Outdoor Faucets

Make sure your outdoor water faucets have been drained and the garden hose disconnected. If you do not have a frost proof faucet, turn the faucet on. If water flows, you will have to go inside, locate the inside shut-off valve for it and close it securely. Go back outside and open the faucet again and leave it open. As additional insurance, the faucet should be insulated with one of those styrofoam covers designed for that purpose.  Make sure it seals right up against the house so cold air will not enter to freeze it. “Frost Proof” outside faucets do not require draining or insulation, if installed correctly, since the valve stems extend straight back through the wall inside the unit and closes off the water inside the house where it should not freeze.

Crawl Spaces and Basements

Survey the water pipes in crawl spaces and basements. Water pipes that run along the top of foundation walls are likely to freeze due to drafts that seep in under the sill plate (the wood piece bolted to the foundation and supporting the floor joists). To protect them, stuff fiberglass insulation behind the pipes, if possible. Caulking cracks anywhere you feel cold air entering will do a lot to eliminate air infiltration in summer and in winter and help to lower heat and air conditioning bills. Pipes passing close by poorly fitted basement windows are equally vulnerable, so caulk would help there as well.

Sinks on Outside Walls

If sinks are on outside walls, open the cabinet doors beneath them and see if the hot and cold supply pipes come through the wall or floor. Pipes coming through outside walls are vulnerable to freezing if no insulation is behind the piping and may require protection in very cold weather. You can provide a small measure of protection by allowing the taps to drip overnight and by leaving the cabinet doors open during unusually cold weather so the heat in the kitchen can reach the wall within the cabinet.

Laundries in Unheated Spaces

Check the temperature in the room if laundry tubs and washing machines are located in unheated spaces to be sure these areas stay above freezing.

Baths above Unheated Spaces

Baths above unheated garages are at risk, particularly if they are located near drafty doors. Again, check the temperature and weatherstrip the garage door if needed. Baths built within projections that extend beyond the foundation or lower wall, such as in a bay or dormer, have vulnerable floor pipes and additional insulation may be required between the pipes and the outside.


Attic spaces may have an uninsulated opening at the top of a wall that cold air can enter and drop down to freeze pipes in the wall. Once, in extremely cold weather, I repaired a tub faucet that froze in the middle of the house due to this type of situation.