We are deep into winter, which means cold temperatures–especially at night. Waking up to frost on the car is annoying, but waking up to frosted-over sewer pipes is downright damaging and disruptive. When water within your sewer pipes freezes, it expands, potentially causing cracks in the pipes and can even cause your sewer pipes to burst! Not to mention that a sewer backup is definitely not fun to deal with, what with all the damage it can do to your home (such as mold growth) and the smells and mess it brings. Thankfully, there are actions you can take to prevent frozen sewer pipes this winter. Though these measures are ideally done before the cold starts, it’s never too late!
1. Insulate Your Pipes
Just like you wear a coat outside to keep warm, your pipes will stay warmer–as in, less likely to freeze–if they are properly insulated. There are a few ways to insulate your pipes, and most of them are best done by a professional. You can use spray foam or fiberglass as insulating material around the pipes. You can also add an insulation sleeve to the pipe. This sleeve is usually another pipe of a larger diameter so that it fits around the sewer pipe with a layer of air in between. Additionally, some pipes come pre-insulated. It’s generally not worth replacing existing sewer pipes with pre-insulated ones, but if you are putting in new pipes anyway, it could be something to consider.
2. Keep Water Flowing
Standing water is the biggest problem when it comes to freezing temperatures. Flowing water is less likely to freeze, so leaving a dripping faucet can help when you know it’s going to be particularly cold out.
3. Close Up Cracks
If you have any cracks in unfinished areas of your home like crawl spaces or cellars and you have sewer pipes running through those areas, the frigid air from outside will creep into your space and can potentially freeze the pipes. Make sure to thoroughly inspect unfinished spaces with sewer pipes and seal off any area where a draft can get in.
4. Make Sure Outdoor Sewer Pipes are Below the Frost Line
The frost line is the depth underground where water will freeze. Below that line, water is generally safe from the frigid temperatures above ground. Every area of the country has a different frost line, so it’s important to find out how deep the frost line is in your area. In New York City, the frost line is about 36 inches deep, and an average of 50 inches deep in the entire New York State. If your sewer pipe or drain trap isn’t buried deeply enough, water in there can freeze and cause problems.
Prevent Frozen Sewer Pipes with Professional Help
If you find you are consistently having issues with frozen sewer pipes, you may need professional assistance. Even if you don’t typically experience frozen sewer pipes, it’s still a good idea to have a professional like the ones at All County Sewer & Drain winterize your pipes so you are prepared for whatever the winter brings!