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How Winter Affects Your Plumbing — and What You Can Do About It

Winter can wreak havoc on a plumbing system. Add frigid temperatures to increased demand, as the whole family hibernates indoors for four months, waiting for spring, and your pipes and water-based appliances start to feel those “winter blues,” too. 

Homeowners who’ve neglected regular plumbing maintenance throughout the year, shrugging off minor issues as “no big deal,” can see those issues intensify during the cold weather months.


When the mercury dips below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, poorly insulated or exposed pipes in basements, garages, and crawl spaces are especially vulnerable to freezing. That means they’re in danger of bursting, and trust us, you want to avoid that mess at all costs.

Left unaddressed, a burst pipe can cause costly water damage to your property — we’re talking thousands of dollars in repairs — and create a breeding ground for mold and mildew. However, frozen or burst pipes don’t always announce themselves with a “bang.” 

We’ve illustrated a few of the red flags that signal a burst pipe in this infographic.

When cold weather hits, it’s important to check out pipes you think might be at risk of freezing. If you see a layer of frost on the pipes, it’s likely there’s a frozen block of water inside. You can try to thaw pipes using a hair dryer or heat lamp — no open flames, please! — or contact a professional plumber with the training and equipment to assess and address the issue.

Other potential indicators of a frozen pipe are faucets acting finicky, producing a weak stream of water or no water at all, and strange odors coming from drains. Nip back at Jack Frost by giving our team a call before a burst pipe gives you the cold shoulder.


You know better than to wash oil and grease down your drains, but we understand that sometimes, stuff happens. Pipes collect debris, whether it’s hair, soap scum, or sludgy cooking substances that build up over time. When cold weather hits, anything stuck in pipes can stiffen, solidify, or combine with frozen water to leave you with a fully stopped-up sink or shower. 

When you encounter winter clogs, try pouring boiling water down the drain in question in order to thaw the obstruction. Or, pick up the phone. Let a pro take a closer look at what’s causing your clogs and provide a permanent solution, not just a quick fix. 


Your water heater works extremely hard throughout the year, but in the winter, it goes into overdrive to meet the increased demand for hot showers, heavy loads of laundry and dishes. That additional wear and tear can lead to a water heater breakdown, especially if you’ve skipped seasonal maintenance over the past year or longer.

Lukewarm or chilly water, when you want it piping hot, doesn’t just make for a dissatisfying shower experience. It could be a sign of an overworked or failing water heater. If you notice inconsistent water temperatures, hear strange sounds coming from the water heater, or observe signs of leakage around the base of the appliance, act fast. A busted water heater, like a burst pipe, is a mess no homeowner wants to deal with — no matter the season.