With below-freezing temperatures and heavy loads of ice and snow, winter can wreak havoc on the plumbing in your Thornton, CO, home. Problems like sump pump failure and frozen pipes are common during the cold season. The good news is that you can proactively prevent and mitigate these issues to limit damage, ensure good drain functionality, and keep your repair costs to a minimum. To help you get started, the following are seven winter plumbing problems that are common in this region:

1. Frozen Indoor and Outdoor Pipes

Below-freezing temperatures can freeze your indoor and outdoor pipes. A common way to prevent this is by insulating exposed pipes and keeping the building interior sufficiently warm. You should:

  • Have your HVAC system serviced to avoid heating emergencies
  • Use a smart thermostat for remote temperature control
  • Keep your furnace on even when you’re away
  • Properly winterize your outdoor spigots

Frozen pipes will prevent fresh water from entering your home until your pipes thaw. However, when there’s sufficient water in pipe interiors before freezing, this water can expand and result in cracked or ruptured pipes and other significant plumbing damage.

You can proactively prevent pipe ruptures by installing pressure-reducing valves. These valves release in-pipe pressure caused by expansion. Before you go on vacation or leave for an extended period of time, open cabinet doors so exposed pipes in these spaces can benefit from the heat circulated by your HVAC system.

2. Broken or Malfunctioning Sump Pump

If you use a sump pump to keep water out of your crawlspace and basement, it’s important to service this appliance before snowmelt begins. Heavy snow loads and large influxes of water can overwhelm sump pumps and cause them to shut down, back up, or malfunction. To both prevent and mitigate sump pump problems mid-season, clean out the unit’s inlet screen, check for drain blockages, and consider installing an additional sump pump. You may want to add extra outdoor drainage if needed or invest in a battery backup system.

3. Clogged Outdoor Drains

The landscape drains at the exterior of Thornton properties take a beating during the winter months. Many of the most commonly used landscape drain types rely on water’s ability to percolate into nearby soils. When topsoil is frozen solid and massive amounts of water come flowing in, foundations are at risk, and water will begin pooling.

You can prevent clogged outdoor drainage by keeping your gutters and roof clean. Also, it helps to remove leaves, twigs, and other organic debris from your yard. If your outdoor drains are comprised of lightweight PVC, consider upgrading to all-metal drain components instead. Metal drains are more resilient to cold weather and far less likely to crack or split if the outside temperature suddenly plummets.

4. Dirty, Slow-Moving Drains in Kitchens and Bathrooms

Many common winter plumbing problems aren’t caused by cold weather or heavy snow. Instead, they’re the result of increased plumbing system use. During the winter months, particularly throughout the holiday season, most people have lots of residents and guests in their homes. Cooking fatty and oily holiday meals can coat your drains and pipes in a thick residue.

In your bathrooms, your shower and bathtub drains will collect more hair, soap scum, body oils, and other debris when your house is full. With more people using these spaces, there’s also a higher likelihood of having solid and semi-solid items fall or get knocked into your drains. Everything from cotton swabs to cotton balls can cause serious drain obstructions that require the help of licensed plumbers.

To prepare for an influx of holiday guests, clean your bathroom and kitchen drains and cover them with properly fitted drain mesh. If you haven’t had your drains professionally cleaned in a while, consider having them cleaned in late summer or early autumn. Most plumbers recommend scheduling professional drain cleaning services at least once each year.

5. Frozen or Ruptured Septic Tank Lines

While many homes in Thornton send their waste and wastewater into the municipal sewer system, there are a fair number of households that rely on septic tanks instead. Septic tanks and the septic lines that lead to them require adequate ground cover. Burying these features at a sufficient depth prevents freezing and freezing-related damage. If they aren’t buried deep enough, freezing could block the flow of wastewater out of your home, leading to a whole-house backup.

To prevent this issue, schedule septic tank inspection and cleaning services before winter arrives. You can find out whether or not your septic system needs additional ground cover or if other modifications to prepare for the cold season are required.

6. Basement Flooding

Basement flooding is a common problem during late winter and early spring as snow melts, outdoor drainage is overwhelmed, and storm water pools near building foundations. Even with adequate outdoor drainage and strategic grading and landscaping, you may need one or more sump pumps to keep low-lying indoor areas clean and dry. If your home doesn’t have an existing sump pump or your sump pump stopped working in a prior wet season, you should schedule sump pump installation right away.

7. Frozen Sewer Lines

Sewer lines can freeze during times of extremely low temperatures when no wastewater is flowing out of the home. For instance, if you head out for vacation just as winter starts, your sewer pipe might be frozen when you return. When no one is flushing toilets, using the dishwasher or washing machine, or taking long, hot showers, there may not be enough movement and heat to keep this underground pipe from developing buildups of slush and ice.

You can keep your sewer line free of slow-moving wastewater and solid waste by having hydro-jetting or hydro-steaming services performed before the cold season starts. These treatments break down blockages in tree roots and weeds and remove snagged materials. In so doing, they expedite the movement of wastewater and limit the risk of pipe ruptures during times of freezing temperatures. Insulating exposed outdoor pipes and taking other measures to prevent freezing pipes in the building interior can help as well.

Schedule a Whole-House Plumbing Inspection

Every season brings a unique range of challenges for residential plumbing systems. However, winter is arguably the most taxing. Whole-house plumbing inspections are annual preventative services that give plumbers the chance to identify and address developing problems. They can make necessary improvements and offer tips for avoiding common winter-related issues. We can help you find and leverage the best strategies for winterizing your hose bibs, insulating your pipes, covering your drains, and more. We can also install pressure-reducing valves, help you establish the right thermostat setting, and perform sump pump tune-up and maintenance services.

With more than 100 years of experience, Jim Needham Heating Cooling Plumbing and Drain proudly serves Thornton, CO, and the surrounding communities. We offer outstanding heating, cooling, plumbing, and drain cleaning services. We also provide new sump pump installation and repairs, pipe lining services, and hydro-jetting. To find out more about preparing your plumbing system for winter or to schedule an appointment, get in touch with Jim Needham Heating Cooling Plumbing and Drain today.

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