Plumbers help prepare pipes for punishing months

LANCASTER, P.A. --- Winter time can be a hard time for plumbing.

"When the wind blows and winter time comes, that's when it's going to give a problem," said Chris Burkholder with Nolt Companies, LLC.

For plumbing professionals like Burkholder, the winter months are busier with an increase in calls for frozen pipe.

He said a sure sign of frozen pipe problems is no flowing water or worsened water pressure.

"[It] can shut down water line supply to an entire apartment building or an entire home, sometimes just one bathroom or one kitchen," said Burkholder.

The best thing a homeowner can do, Burkholder says, is doing visual inspections of piping in unconditioned areas, such as basements and attics.

He said to keep look for any openings in vents, siding and mortar.

"Those places that people don't often think about during the summer months, they get a lot colder come winter time," said Burkholder.

He also said some piping, such as copper and CVCP pipes, can expand during the cold weather and burst.

"Then, when they thaw back out again, now you've got water spraying everywhere so you may start noticing water rings on your ceilings or a water spot in your basement," said Burkholder.

He said they often hear of homeowners attempting to thaw pipes, themselves.

He recommends turning the water off to the home before any kind of thawing.

"When it does thaw, whether it's you thawing it or the elements get better outside, it doesn't cause additional water damage. All you'd have to do is repair the broken pipe, not also repairing a bunch of drywall or ruined floors or anything like that," said Burkholder.

If pipes are hard to reach in a home without what Burkholder calls "major surgery," simply letting a faucet drip overnight can help prevent freezing.

"When water's flowing, it wont freeze, as quickly," said Burkholder.

For outside faucets, he said disconnect the hose and turn off any shut off valves in the basement.

If not, water can airlock in the faucet, freeze, then burst.

"It actually bursts on the inside of the house, not outside so you don't know it until next spring when you go to turn your faucet on. You have no water outside but it's pouring into your basement inside," said Burkholder.

Cold weather isn't the only problem for pipes this time of year.

Burkholder said putting food such as vegetables, rice, and pasta down the drain creates issues because they swell in water.

Also, He said they find toothpicks from appetizers creating problems when they get in the right angle and stop everything behind it.