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CityLink Seattle

Tips for Weatherproofing Pipes for Winter Storms

Winter is coming… and you may not be too shocked by that fact as it tends to happen ever year. But for those of you who are looking for some tips on how to best prepare for the possibility of another winter storm, hopefully not to the extent that Seattle experienced in February, 2019, here are some tips and ticks to help to keep your pipes free from the dreaded freeze.

Step 1: Be Prepared! Protect your pipes from freezing and bursting ahead of time by insulating them. This can be done in your basement or crawlspace with foam covers, pipe wrap, or wall insulation.

Step 2: Don’t Forget About Exterior Pipes. Make sure to drain and detach your garden hose and cover your spigot with a faucet cover. Don’t forget to also shut off and drain in-ground sprinkler systems if that applies to your home.

Step 3: Locate Your Shutoffs Ahead of Time. In case of an emergency, you won’t want to go searching for your shutoffs. Make sure you know where your electricity, gas, and water main switches and valves are located well ahead of bad weather.

Step 4: When the Temp Drops, Let it Drip! It may seem counterproductive for us to tell you use more water, but in this case, it may save your pipes from bursting and from wasting a whole lot more water in the process. Once the temperature drops below freezing, allow your indoor faucet to slowly drip cold water. You’ll want to select the faucet farthest from your front door. Do not leave water running in unoccupied buildings as this may cause flooding if there is a clog.

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If pipes break or freeze, there are a few things you can do to help minimize the damage.

  • If Pipes Break:
    • Immediately close the main shut-off valve to stop flooding. Remember Step 3? This could be located in your basement, garage, or crawlspace.
    • If you cannot turn off the main shut-off valve, SPU customers can call (206) 386-1800 and a crew will turn off the water at the meter for a service charge. This phone number is staffed 24/7.
    • Call a plumber to repair or replace the damaged section of pipe as soon as possible.
  • If Pipes Freeze:
    • If you attempt to turn on your faucet and only a trickle comes out, you may have a frozen pipe. The first thing you need to do is locate the possible area where the pipe is frozen. Mostly likely it will be running against an exterior wall or where your water service enters your home.
    • Apply heat to the section of the pipe using towels soaked in hot water wrapped around the pipe. Do not use electrical devices if there is standing water.  Do not use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove, or other open flame device. A blowtorch can make water in a frozen pipe boil and cause the pipe to explode. All open flames in homes present a serious fire danger, as well as a severe risk of exposure to lethal carbon monoxide.
    • Apply heat until full water pressure is restored. If you are unable to locate the frozen area, if the frozen area is not accessible, or if you cannot thaw the pipe, call a licensed plumber.
    • Check all other faucets in your home to find out if you have additional frozen pipes. If one pipe freezes, others may freeze, too.

We hope this helps and that you stay safe, warm, and dry through these winter months!

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