Tag Archives: winter

Winter Sewer Problems – Tree Roots

Do Tree Roots Grow In Winter?

If your sewer lines are not draining properly during winter, you may have a tree root problem. Tree roots do not stop growing during cold weather. In reality, they search harder tree roots and sewer problemsfor moisture and nutrients during winter while the ground is frozen or cold. Sewer pipes are magnets for tree roots because they are filled with flowing warm sludge. Water vapor escapes into the soil near the pipe. Tree roots attach to the water vapor and grow along the vapor path to the water vapor exit points which are cracks or joints in the pipe. Once the roots have found the source of nutrients, the roots grow into the pipe. The feathery ends of the roots catch the sludge as it washes by and feed on it. The roots grow rapidly and cause a root ball to form. This ball traps paper and debris, causing clogs. This ultimately causes the sewer to back up into the house.

What Can You Do to Prevent Root Growth?

Spring is typically the time to plant new outdoor plants. Be aware of where your sewer lines run and steer clear of them when planting new shrubbery, trees, or plants. Maple, Cottonwood, Apple, Pear, Honeysuckle, and Lilac are prime sewer offenders because their root systems grow extensively underground.  Willow, Elm, Sycamore, Ash, and Birch trees are also known for their sewer-clogging ways. These are all trees that have a high demand for water and will actively search for water vapor in the soil.

How Can You Destroy Tree Root Growth?

Tree friendly herbicides will stop the root growth but not harm the entire tree. These can be bought and applied during any time of year. If the problem is severe enough, you will have to call in a plumber who uses specialized equipment to unclog the drain. If the roots have been clipped professionally, wait a few weeks and then apply the herbicides to prevent future root growth.



Frozen Pipes Myths Debunked

frozen pipes myths debunked

Detection of Frozen Pipes

If the temperature has been below freezing and you have turned on the tap and nothing comes out, you might have a frozen water pipe. If you turn on the tap, and just a trickle of water comes out, you might have a frozen water pipe.  Frozen pipes may have a bulge or may have frost on the outside of them. If a section of pipe feels colder than the surrounding sections, that section can be the frozen culprit.

Myth:  All Frozen Pipes Burst

This is not the case. Many times the pipe will thaw without rupturing. Before you begin thawing the pipe, make sure the main water valve is turned off, and the faucets are all turned on. When the water in the pipe begins to defrost, the water will drain through the pipe to the faucet. If there is more than one section of frozen pipe, make sure that you start thawing the pipe at the frozen spot closest to the faucet. This will allow the melting water to flow out of the line properly instead of backing it up and causing pressure buildup in the line.

Myth:  Contact a Plumber at the First Sign of a Frozen Pipe

Defrosting a frozen pipe does not always result in the need to call a plumber. You can save yourself some money if you are patient and thaw the pipe out yourself. Plumbers can come babysit your pipes while they thaw, but you will pay heftily for them to do it, especially if it is after hours or on a weekend. Homeowners can crank up the heat in the home to defrost the pipes in the walls. Indoor pipes will usually thaw out slowly, and water will eventually begin to flow through the faucet into the sink. You can turn the water back on from the main valve to force more water into the line. If water begins to flow properly into the sink, then your efforts were successful. If however, no water is making its way to the faucet, and if you find the water damaging your walls, carpet, or furniture, turn the main water valve off immediately and call your plumbing expert.





Garage Winterization

Where is the Sink?

It is easy to overlook the plumbing in the garage. If you have a sink or faucet in the garage, the plumbing is not far away. The plumbing in the garage is often exposed to the elements
more so than the plumbing under the house. Opening and closing the garage door allows winter temperatures to penetrate the space where your plumbing is located. If your garage sink is wall-mounted without a cabinet surrounding it, the pipes are exposed to the elements and at a high risk for freezing.

your garage in the winter

Chore to Heat

If you spend little time in your garage during the winter, you may not have discovered the need for heat in that space. Most garages are not equipped with heat vents from the central heating unit. Space heaters or portable heating sources are often the main sources of heat in the garage. If your garage is not well insulated, and older ones usually are not, it will be a chore to heat this area.

Energy Efficiency Pays Off

Your best bet will be to add a layer of insulation to the ceiling, around the walls, and on the concrete floor.  It will save on your energy bill later because it will trap the heat in winter and keep the area cool in the summer.  Adding heat to your garage can prevent an emergency service call to a plumber.

It is Okay to Call for Help

If you would rather not install a separate heating unit in the garage yourself, be sure to contact your heating and air technician. The technician will have the best idea of where to put your new heater. Small, efficient propane heaters can be attached to portable “grill size” tanks. The technician can set this up for you. These heaters can be useful as a back-up plan in case the electric power service is interrupted during a winter storm. If the power is off, you can relocate to the garage for warmth and take refuge from the storm.


Pipe Protection

Don’t Be Caught Off Guard

Subfreezing temperatures can cause extensive problems for an unprepared homeowner. If your pipes have already frozen, leaks can spring up as thawing occurs. Frozen pipes and protecting your pipes for colder weatherleaks can happen in the walls, under the house, or under the sinks inside the house.  All of your pipes must be cared for, not just the ones that are exposed outside.

How to Prevent Freezing Pipes

All pipes should be wrapped and insulated. The pre-slit pipe wrap insulation is one of the easiest to install.  It fits over your pipes and is to be taped down so that it stays in place.  These prefabricated pipe wraps are made by a variety of companies. You can also use the traditional rolls of insulation and wrap the pipes yourself.  As long as the pipes are covered before they are frozen, the insulation should protect the pipes from freezing.

Helpful Hints

If your house has a crawl space beneath it, you should check to make sure that any vents or entryways are closed so that a direct current of cold air is not invading your pipes’ territory.  If your water heater is in a closet with outdoor access, make sure that those pipes are insulated as well. Inside pipes should be insulated also.

Inside your home, on the coldest of days, opening your cabinet doors beneath your sinks is a good idea. This will allow heat to flow around the pipes. Putting lit light bulbs underneath your home near your pipe network is a good way to help prevent freezing.  Light bulbs produce heat and will combat the freezing temperatures. You can purchase a cord with a bulb socket on it.  Some of these cords are long and have multiple bulb sockets. They were originally designed for outdoor lighting for parties, but you can re-purpose these into a pipe-heating mechanism.  It is well worth the effort to crawl under your home and place these lamps near your pipe network.

Outdoor spigots should not be used during winter. These are prime targets for freezing. Make sure that you drain these well. Wrap them with extra insulation to prevent damage.

How to Thaw

Despite your best efforts to prevent freezing, sometimes freezing happens.  If this happens to your pipes, be sure to use either a hair dryer or a light bulb to defrost them. Both will heat the pipe with warmth and neither will melt the pipe. You should consider turning the water off at the main meter before attempting to defrost the pipe. If a leak occurs, this will minimize the amount of water available to make a mess. If the pipe bursts or springs a leak, it is a great idea to contact a plumber immediately.