With freezing temperatures arriving it is important to shut down the outside taps. Failure to do so can cause serious water damage to your home.
Once you are done using water outside the house, it is time to shut down the water to the outside taps and drain the lines. This is a simple job that most homeowners can do themselves.
For each outside tap, you will find a shutoff tap in your basement, **unless it's the frost free type explained below. Turn the basement tap to the right to shut it down. You will find a small bleed valve at the base of the tap. It's a little cap that you unscrew. You may need pliers to loosen it. Have a pail and rag ready, the water between the bleed valve and the outside tap will drain out.
Leave the bleed valve cap off and go outside and open the faucet. If you have a newer outside faucet it will have a vacuum breaker. You'll find a little button inside the outlet of the faucet. Push it in a few times with your finger to allow air into the line. More water may run out through the bleed valve in your basement.
Vacuum breakers were mandated over 15 years ago. They prevent stale water that is in the hose or chemical sprays applied with your hose from backing up into your home’s water supply.
Once you are satisfied that all the water is out of the line, you can close the outside valve and put the bleed valve cover back on in the basement. In the spring, all you will have to do is open the tap in the basement.
If you have a second outdoor faucet, repeat the process. Some houses will have a faucet in the garage. You need to repeat the process for this one as well. These often freeze and split if you leave the garage door open for an extended period of time when shoveling the driveway.
**If you have frost free taps, we would recommend the same process. In London, Ontario, winter temperatures can get low enough that you may even freeze the line on a frost free tap.
If you are leaving your home for a winter vacation, shut off your main water supply. You can't do this if you have a hot water heating system. If you can, open up the cupboards below any sink (kitchen or bathroom), so warm air can still reach the piping hidden behind the wall. This is especially important if the sink is on an outside wall or over an unheated space (crawl space or garage). You can lower your thermostat setting slightly but if temperature is expected to be below -10° Celsius the risk of a pipe freezing and splitting increases significantly.
The cost of a frozen pipe goes well beyond the cost of replacing the pipe. Water damage in finished basements can be extensive if a line starts leaking when you are not at home.