With another unpredictable, Midwestern winter underway, the colder months come with their own set of unique plumbing problems for homeowners throughout the Greater Indianapolis area and beyond. Indiana homes are especially vulnerable during the winter months, but catching an issue early on is the best way to keep smaller problems from becoming bigger disasters. Here are the most common winter plumbing problems we see every year:

  1. Frozen pipes

Both indoor and outdoor water supply pipes can freeze during the winter months, with uninsulated areas along exterior walls and outdoor spigots being the most vulnerable.

Since outdoor water lines don’t run into the home and go unused during colder months, the pipes can burst before a leak is ever spotted. Winterizing your hose bibbs and turning off the valve that serves your spigot are two easy ways to protect outdoor pipes.

Cracked or burst indoor pipes cause major water leaks. We recommend leaving cabinets under sinks open during colder months to allow better heat circulation, allowing a small, steady drip of water from your faucet to alleviate any pressure in your water line, and having pipe insulation installed on your supply lines.

The most common signs of frozen pipes are extremely light waterflow from your sinks and showers, or no waterflow at all. As soon as you notice inadequate waterflow, call your plumber to come out and assess the problem.

  1. Clogged kitchen drains

Holiday cooking and celebrations are a workout for your kitchen sink. It’s likely that more food is being put down your garbage disposal, which increases the likelihood of a clog. Be sure to keep fat, grease, oils, coffee grounds, bones, fruit cores and stringy vegetables out of your disposal. We also recommend letting the water run for about 15 seconds after shutting your disposal off to ensure waste is effectively moved through the drain.

If your garbage disposal breaks or backs up, call your plumber. You can attempt to remove an obstruction on your own, but never put your hand in the unit. Instead of risking an accident, rely on your plumber who knows how to remove blockages quickly and safely.

  1. Water heater troubles

Your water heater puts in overtime once the temperature drops. Without proper maintenance and drainage, your water heater will struggle to keep up and eventually fail to give you the hot water you need. If it’s been a while since you scheduled routine water heater maintenance, be sure to give your plumber a call so they can service your appliance and you can enjoy hot water all winter long!

  1. Flooded basement from snow

Sump pumps can experience increased usage when snow and ice start to melt. If your sump pump cannot handle the load, your system can back up and flood your entire basement. Be sure to clean your sump pit and ensure any debris and grime is removed ahead of the colder months. We also recommend installing a backup sump pump that can save your main sump pump if it fails or is overloaded.

To prevent sump pump failure, keep a five-foot area around your foundation clear of snow. This will allow the melted snow to flow away from your home instead of towards it. We also recommend inspecting your foundation and basement walls for any cracks and having them patched. If it’s been some time since you had your sump pump serviced — or you don’t have a sump pump at all — call your plumber.

  1. Damaged water hose bib

Your outdoor water hose bib, or faucet, can easily freeze, crack and burst in the winter if it isn’t properly drained ahead of time. To prevent your hose bib from freezing, be sure to drain it by detaching the hose and allowing excess water to flow out. You can also secure an old sock over your hose bib to add an extra layer of protection against the winter elements. If your hose bib does end up freezing or bursting, turn off the hose’s water supply valve and then call your plumber right away.

Overdue for plumbing maintenance? Dealing with a plumbing problem?

With more than 30 years of professional experience serving families throughout the Greater Indianapolis area, we know a thing or two about plumbing systems. Whether you need to schedule routine maintenance or experience an emergency, don’t worry! Just give Justin Dorsey Plumbing a call! We’ll send a team out to you as quickly as possible to conduct a thorough inspection and ensure your system is operating safely and efficiently — with NO after-hours fees!