Winterize your pipes now to avoid trouble

frozen indoor pipe with unfocused backgroundWinter weather is here​

Mountain snow this past weekend means that now is the time to winterize vulnerable pipes and faucets at home, before they freeze in a sudden cold snap.

Winter weather – like what snuck up on two stranded PCT hikers – might seem far off after two sunny, mid-60s days this week. But in late October, frost can arrive in a hurry, and extended forecasts show freezing nighttime weather returns next week east of the Cascades.

outdoor foam faucet cover Your first target should be outdoor faucets

Remove hoses and store them for the winter. If they're left attached to faucets, trapped water that has nowhere to go can freeze, expand, and crack your pipe. So remove hoses and insulate your outdoor faucets with a foam cover, available for just a few bucks at any hardware store.

If you have an underground sprinkler system, drain it 

You can blow out any remaining water if you have an air compressor, or hire a landscape company to do it.

foam pipe insulatioNext, insulate your pipes in unheated areas

Check your crawl space, attic, garage, even the laundry room if it's near an outer wall and has no heat vent. Shroud any exposed water pipes with foam wrap. If the pipes are near an outlet, you can use UL-approved heating cable or tape.

Don't forget unheated buildings,

like a detached garage, workshop, or a vacant vacation home. When second homes are left unattended during the winter, it's best to close the main water-shutoff valve and turn off the water heater. Open indoor and outdoor faucets to drain all pipes, and flush the toilet to drain the tank.

We hassled with a frozen, burst pipe a few years ago. I took a chance at our cabin and assumed it would not freeze there until after Thanksgiving, the time I usually shut down and drain our water system.

But I was wrong. An Arctic blast arrived Nov. 11, and before I could find time three days later to drive 80 miles to our cabin, our main water line froze solid. I turned off the well for the winter and hoped that, come late March, I'd find water flowing freely again.

split pumphouse pipe surrounded by mud and waterNope. Four months later I turned on the pump, but no water. Then I heard a trickling sound: water was perking up through the ground outside the pumphouse and running downhill. The pipe had cracked underground and burst. It took me two days to dig down, expose the pipe, repair it, replace the soil, and restore running water.

You can dodge frozen pipes in a cold snap with an added precaution. Moving water is less likely to freeze, so leave one faucet on with a slow trickle of cold water. Choose the faucet farthest away from where the water enters your home. That keeps it moving through the entire house. No clogged pipe, no unnatural disaster.

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