Keeping Plumbing From Freezing in Your Unoccupied Vacation House

Marwa Grimes

If you plan to leave your vacation house or cabin unoccupied for the winter, leaving it unheated, you will need to take some precautions to ensure that no water freezes in your pipes, toilets, or other plumbing fixtures. Freezing water expands, causing your pipes or other fixtures to break. You can damage your pipes, the spigots in your sinks, shower heads, and any other plumbing fixture that holds standing water.

But the damage does not stop with broken plumbing. Once the frozen water thaws and flows again, it will flow out of the frozen pipes and fixtures and can cause damage to ceilings, walls, floors, and property. You will literally have a flood in your vacation home. If you are not there at the time (which is likely if the home got that cold), you could have extensive damage. Needless to say, the damage can be expensive and the repairs time consuming. This scenario can easily be prevented by the homeowner in a fairly easy manner. While it will most likely take a few hours to do, it is time wisely spent.

Solution: Empty Your Lines
The first step in avoiding a plumbing catastrophe is to shut off the water to your house, or have your water department shut it off for you. Next you will need to drain your house’s entire plumbing system by opening every faucet. Then drain your water heater and disconnect drain hoses on dishwashers and clothes washing machines. Fourthly, check to see whether you have any valves that can be drained. They tend to be located near your water meter. If you have any, use a wrench to open the drain cocks on them. If there is a low-lying pipe without a drain cock or faucet, open up a union where the pipes connect to let out the water. The next step is flush all of your toilets and pour environmentally-friendly, biodegradable antifreeze solution (diluted as recommended on the instructions) into them. Then pour this solution into all of your plumbing fixtures that do not have traps, such as showers, bathtubs, sinks, and your washing machine’s standpipe. If your house has a main trap, pour full-strength antifreeze into it.

When you return to your vacation home, you will be able to use your plumbing as usual when you turn your water back on.

If you perform all of these steps, you can rest easy that you will not be faced frozen pipes and water damage the next time you return to your lovely vacation getaway.

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