7 Most Common Winter Plumbing Issues and Tips on Preventing Them

To prevent plumbing issues in winter, you should start preparing for the colder season in advance. Read this article to get to know what exactly you should do!

In colder months, you want your home to be warm and cozy. To achieve this goal, you should try to prevent any issues with your plumbing systems. The sooner you detect any risks, the cheaper and easier it should be to eliminate them. In this article, you’ll find the list of the most common winter plumbing problems and ways of avoiding them.

Frozen Outdoor Pipes

To prevent this issue, you might want to do the following:

  • Winterize outdoor hose bibbs in the fall
  • Disconnect hoses, drain water, and store them for the winter
  • Turn off the valve on the water line that serves the spigot inside your house
  • Open the hose bib valve, let water drain, and leave it open during the winter outside the house to alleviate pressure
  • Use an insulating cover to protect the hose bib
  • Upgrade outdoor spigots to frost-free hose bibs
  • Add insulation to the water lines serving your home’s outdoor hose bibbs

If you fail to properly winterize the water lines that supply outdoor spigots, they might freeze. These lines remain unused during colder months and don’t run into the home. Pipes might burst long before you would be able to notice a leak.

Frozen Indoor Pipes

To avoid this problem, you should consider the following proactive measures:

  • Have pressure relief valves installed on water lines
  • Install pipe insulation to water supply lines, especially those on exterior walls and in uninsulated areas
  • Leave faucets on at a very small drip during colder months to alleviate pressure in the lines and keep water moving
  • Leave cabinets under sinks open to allow heat from the home to circulate in the area

Water supply pipes located along exterior walls and in uninsulated areas are particularly vulnerable to freezing. If they burst or crack, there might be major leaks. You might suspect that your pipes have frozen if there is no water flow at all from your sinks and showers or the flow is too light.

Clogged Kitchen Drains

To make sure your kitchen drains never get clogged, you should remember the following recommendations:

  • Never let meat bones, coffee grounds, cooking oil, grease, fat, and other improper items get into your garbage disposal
  • Run ice periodically through your garbage disposal to clean it and cover the drain with a stopper before turning on the unit
  • Always run cold water while using the garbage disposal and continue to let it run for about 15 to 30 seconds after turning the unit off — that should move food waste through the drain

In winter, kitchen drains might get clogged more often than in summer for two reasons. First, people cook homemade feasts for holidays. Second, they consume more fatty food than in summer.

Water Heater Troubles

To make your water heater operate as intended for as long as possible, you might consider these tips:

  • Buy a water heater blanket at a home improvement store and use it to prevent energy loss in tank water heater models.
  • Insulate the water supply inlet and hot water outlet pipes running into and out of your water heater. This should enable the unit to retain heat as hot water travels through pipes to fixtures.
  • Don’t forget about the systematic maintenance of your water heater. Drain it annually and test the pressure relief valve to ensure proper functioning.

If you suspect that you might need to replace the unit, try to contact the plumbing service in Chicago during the warmer months and not when it’s freezing outside.

Outdoor Drain Damage

To reduce the probability of this type of damage, it should be enough to:

  • Clear any accumulation off the drain cover as soon as possible when you notice snow or freezing rain outside.
  • Remove leaves and yard debris from outdoor drains in the fall.
  • Replace plastic drains with metal ones. Galvanized steel is the most frost-resistant option of all. Plus, metal will be far less likely to crack when it’s freezing and can better withstand the weight of ice buildup than plastic.

Any type of plastic expands and contracts as temperatures change. It doesn’t make sense to upgrade from cheaper plastic to a costlier one.

Frozen Well Pump

In this case, it should be enough to remember two basic rules:

  • Install insulation to all well supply lines. It will prevent freezing which blocks the home from receiving water.
  • Keep your jet well pump in a well-insulated area to keep the heat around the unit.

If the good pump freezes, you might fail to receive any water. To restore the water supply, you should thaw the pump right away.

Jet well pumps are more prone to freezing, compared to their deep well counterparts. This happens due to their location and the need to hold water at all times.

Basement Floods Due to Snowmelt

To keep your basement dry and clean, it would be wise to do the following:

  • Keep your sump pump in a working condition and test it regularly
  • Consider installing a backup sump pump
  • Clear the snow away when it builds up on the roof to avoid a heavy load on your gutters when spring comes
  • When snowfall occurs, clear snow away keeping a five-foot area clear surrounding your foundation
  • Patch cracks in your basement walls and foundation in the fall to prevent water leaks
  • Clean gutters and inspect outdoor drainage systems in the fall to ensure water moves safely away from the home’s foundation

Your basement might get flooded as soon as the temperatures get warmer after a large accumulation of snow. A flood might damage the belongings that you store in the basement as well as the very structure of your house.


Hopefully, you found this article informative and now you better understand the essence of the most common winter plumbing issues. During colder months, you might face such problems as frozen indoor and outdoor pipes, clogged kitchen drains, water heater troubles, outdoor heater damage, frozen well pump, and basement floods due to snowmelt. The good news is that it’s easy to prevent them.

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