Winter Plumbing Woes Take East Fixes

by Blake Herzog

We’ve covered how to deal with the hazard frozen pipes can pose during the winter on page 132. While this is probably the most damaging plumbing situation you need to be on guard for, there are other issues you’re more likely to have to deal with during the coldest months of the year.

Here are some preventive steps you can take to reduce the odds they’ll cast a chill over your cold season.


Water heaters can get overworked in the winter, both from increased day-to-day use and as extended family and other guests come for overnight visits.

To avoid running out at the least convenient time:

  • Keep up with annual maintenance by draining the water and checking the water pressure valve or having a professional do this.
  • Insulate the water supply inlet and all pipes coming out of the heater to retain heat as water travels through them.
  • If you have a tank-style heater, find a cover that will fit over it and prevent energy loss. These can be found at most home improvement stores or online.


The dirt around septic systems doesn’t always provide a lot of protection against ice formation, and the results can be unpleasant to say the least — loss of function, sewage backups and sewage leaks.

  • Try not to overload your system with kitchen and other waste, but do keep using it so it will get flushed out.
  • Check for soil erosion around the tank, and fill any empty spots with loose dirt, preferably before freezing temperatures hit. Don’t compact the dirt, which will make it more prone to freezing.
  • Lay a layer of straw above the tank and its lines for added protection against freezing.
  • Don’t drive over your septic tank or field, since the compacted soil on top will freeze more quickly.


Outdoor drains, especially those made from plastic, are vulnerable to damage as water freezes and expands, then contracts.

  • Upgrade any plastic drains to metal, preferably galvanized steel. These are much less likely to crack from freezing or from the weight of snow and ice on top.
  • Remove leaves and yard clippings from around the drains in the fall and keep doing so as much as you can during the winter.
  • Clear any snow or ice that accumulates over the drains ASAP.