Simple, No-Cost Actions Can Save Home Plumbing from Unnecessary Frost-Related Repairs

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Benjamin Franklin Plumbing of Denver gets hundreds of call every year for such little mistakes as leaving basement windows open and not disconnecting garden hoses.

It’s been a record hot September, but as autumn dawns cold weather can blast into the Denver area at any moment. Drawing on years of experience, master plumber Steve Jusseaume, owner of Benjamin Franklin Plumbing of Denver, says it’s time to insure that a home’s plumbing is ready for the onslaught of winter with simple, often no-cost actions by homeowners that can save thousands of dollars in unnecessary repairs.

“It never fails,” says Jusseaume. “The first cold snap of the fall always brings a ton of calls on frozen and bursting pipes, and almost all of these calls can be avoided. We love the business, of course, but we hate to see people’s lives disrupted because they didn’t prepare.”

Jusseaume recommends homeowners take the following actions to prepare plumbing for winter:

  •     Unhook all garden hoses from the outdoor faucets. Water in the hose can freeze and force ice into the faucet and the indoor plumbing, potential causing a bursting pipe in the basement or under the house.
  •     Inspect the outdoor water faucets to check for drips or leaks. If necessary, replace the gaskets and/or washers or replace them with new frost-proof faucets.
  •     Shut basement windows. Place storm windows on the basement windows or cover them with plastic sheeting or panels that act as storm-window protection.
  •     Blow out sprinkler systems with an adequate air compressor (or have a sprinkler service do it) as soon as lawn and garden watering is done for the season.
  •     Cover the sprinkler system water control mechanism with an approved insulated cover or a blanket. Make sure all exposed water pipes are covered and insulated.
  •     Insulate and/or cover all pipes through the basement or crawl space that may run along a bare wall that is not insulated. If the pipes have been insulated in the past, check them to make sure the insulation hasn’t slipped or deteriorated. Repair and replace where necessary.

Two main issues are almost always the culprits in a frozen pipe situation early in the season, Jusseaume notes: leaving garden hoses connected when it freezes, and forgetting to shut the basement windows open for summer air.

Hoses left attached during a good freeze can back up ice into the outdoor faucets and the water lines feeding them, and a quick thaw – frequent in the fall – can cause the faucet to break and the water lines to burst. If this happens, water damage in the basement and foundation is almost inevitable, and getting everything back to normal will almost surely involve more than fixing the pipes.

“People still have the need to water their lawns and gardens, but just remembering to unhook the hose after each use can literally save thousands of dollars in repairs,” says Jusseaume. “It’s such a simple thing, really, but a real problem nonetheless.”

Likewise, basement windows are also a problem, particularly in older homes where the basement, or part of it, may not be finished, adds Jusseaume. In summer many people open the basement windows to air out the space, but often water pipes feeding fixtures throughout the home run along unfinished walls and ceilings and are susceptible to freezing and bursting if exposed to sub-freezing temperatures.

“People will put the storm windows on upstairs and yet forget to simply close the windows in the utility room in the basement,” says Jusseaume. “It can be a costly mistake and, astonishingly, completely avoidable.”

The veteran plumber adds that lawn-watering sprinkler systems are almost always fine until the cold weather sets in permanently and the ground freezes, since most of the pipes are buried several inches below the surface. By mid-November, he says, the sprinkler system needs to be blown out and shut down properly, but until then about the only precaution a homeowner needs to take is to cover the exposed vacuum valve and exposed pipes controlling the system if a hard freeze is predicted. These systems are usually found on the back of a home where the water line from inside the home feeds the sprinkler.

Jusseaume also recommends conducting a complete plumbing inspection in the autumn to ensure there is no looming problem, especially if a homeowner has found some of the tell-tale symptoms of a bigger problem. The most common indication of a plumbing problem is a toilet that is backing up more than normal, or one that needs to be flushed several times to evacuate waste; this could be a sign that the sewer system in clogged and may soon back up.

“It’s never fun to have a backed up sewer, but it’s worse in the winter when it’s cold and there are simply more demands on a home’s plumbing system,” he says. “Besides, fixing a sewer line before it breaks down completely not only is often a less expensive plumbing call, it also prevents the unpleasant clean-up and the inevitable damage to floors, carpets and walls that a sewer back-up can cause.”

Benjamin Franklin Plumbing of Denver performs economical whole-house plumbing inspections, making sure all water mains and lines are ship-shape, the water heater is operating at peak capacity, all fixtures are working properly, that there are no signs of trouble in the sewer line, and that all water connections are tight and show no signs of leaking. Expert plumbers check the laundry room, the kitchen sink and disposer, all bathroom fixtures, and all outdoor faucets and systems.

Benjamin Franklin Plumbing of Denver was founded in 1978 as Deer Creek Plumbing by Jusseaume, and remains family owned and operated five years after signing on with the Number One residential plumbing operation in the nation. As a member of the franchise, Benjamin Franklin Plumbing of Denver has access to a vast array of plumbing fixtures and systems, including exclusive Go-Hot Tankless Water Heaters that can save homeowners significantly over retail pricing.

For more information on the complete plumbing services offered by Benjamin Franklin Plumbing of Denver, The Punctual Plumber, for residences throughout the Denver metro area, visit     http://www.benfranklinplumbingdenver.com and call 303-340-3400 and 1-866-PUNCTUAL.

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Danielle Yuthas

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