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Despite vibrant summer seasons, Wisconsin is undoubtedly a state with icy winters. Madison-area locals know that when cold weather comes, it’s time to salt the sidewalks, swap our current wheels for snow tires, and keep a set of warm clothes in the backseat.

We know how to protect our vehicles and keep ourselves warm, but when it comes to protecting our home’s pipes, many folks struggle with winter-proofing. And if your home’s pipes aren’t winter-proofed correctly, it can result in some pretty expensive repairs come springtime. After all, if a burst pipe results in water damage, homeowners can expect to pay anywhere from $1,000 to $4,000 to replace flooring and repair the damage.

To help you save time, money, and headaches, be sure to winter-proof your home’s interior and exterior pipes with these top tips.

1. Winter-proof your home’s outdoor hose bibbs.

Pipes on the exterior of the house will freeze and burst most often because they aren’t insulated by the home’s heat. However, if there isn’t flooding, most homeowners won’t even realize that a hose bibb or exterior pipe has burst until the spring. As such, every spring we make a lot of home calls to replace hose bibbs.

To winter-proof your home’s outdoor hose bibbs and avoid the need to make expensive repairs in the year to come, follow these steps:

  1. Remove the hoses from the bibb and straighten them in a long line on the ground. Pick up the hose from the middle and lift it up to shoulder height, allowing any water to flow down and out. Make sure that the inside and outside of the hose is dry, before storing in a dry space.
  2. Remove any splitters or other attachments from the hose bibb to ensure proper drainage. There should be no removable pieces remaining where water could leak in between, as this can cause ice to crack the attachments.
  3. Inside your home, close the valve that supplies water to the outdoor pipes. This will most likely be in the basement. If you’re struggling to find it, a quick Google search of your water system’s name will help you find it.
  4. Last, open the outside valve so that the water can drain completely. We recommend leaving the outside valve open throughout winter, or at least for a few days so that any water left behind has room to expand if it freezes.

Basically, by removing your hoses, draining them, and shutting off the hose bibbs, you remove any water that would otherwise be in the pipes. So, when the weather gets cold and water expands, it won’t cause your exterior pipes to burst.

2. Install frost-free hose bibbs if you don’t have a separate valve for outside faucets.

Some homes don’t have a separate valve for outside faucets. If your home doesn’t have this separate valve, you will need to install a frost-free hose bibb before the winter freeze sets in. Installing a frost-free hose bibb involves replacing your old spigot entirely and running the new frost-free pipe inside the house. The pipe running into your home must then be attached to a water valve.

Essentially, installing a frost-free hose bibb adds a water supply valve to the outside of the home, enabling you to cut off the water supply to the exterior pipes. This process will involve some plumbing skills and caulking, and may potentially require soldering, so be sure to check with an expert if you’re having trouble cutting off the outside water supply yourself.

3. Winter-proof your home’s interior pipes.

Pipes inside your home are at risk for freezing and bursting, too, especially if they’re located in unheated or poorly insulated areas. Most commonly, these areas include attics, garages, basements, and even cabinets. Pipes that run alongside exteriors walls are also at risk.

If you have any water supply lines in the garage of your home, keep the garage door closed to prevent any water supply lines inside from freezing. For pipes in a basement floor or foundation, seal windows with removable caulk or shrink plastic to improve the insulation in your basement. Most local hardware stores offer Styrofoam, tape, or cloth pipe coverings to insulate exposed pipes. On average, you can pay as little as 50 cents per linear foot for efficient pipe insulation.

A handful of preventative steps now can save you hundreds of dollars in water damage this winter. If you suspect that any of your pipes might be frozen, give us a call right away. Our team will give you a visit and seek to understand the situation fully before recommending the best solution for your home.

More of a visual learner? Check out our quick video: