At­ten­tion to plumb­ing sys­tem cru­cial

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - HOMES - ARI MARANTZ

QI read your ar­ti­cles faith­fully ev­ery week, as they are use­ful home care so­lu­tions from a pro. We are go­ing to warmer cli­mate for a three-month stay, how­ever, among the many things to pre­pare is shut­ting down our home from Jan­uary to April, our cold­est months. In ad­di­tion to the many check­list items, such as hav­ing peo­ple check the house oc­ca­sion­ally, re­mov­ing mail etc., on the wa­ter is­sue we have had some dif­fer­ences of opin­ion. Some sources have ad­vised com­pletely win­ter­iz­ing, by shut­ting off the wa­ter, drain­ing pipes and adding anti freeze, even though the heat will be left on. The thought is if the power or fur­nace go off, it may not take long for the house to fall be­low freez­ing. Can you rec­om­mend what you feel should be done? Thank you, John H AN­SWER: Thanks for the kind words. Ex­plor­ing the needs of your home when leav­ing for an ex­tended pe­riod of time is a very wise idea and timely. I’m sure you are not alone in this en­deav­our and I have re­ceived many in­quiries of this type, over the years. Choos­ing how much ef­fort to put into this job will de­pend on lo­ca­tion of your home and your per­sonal se­cu­rity com­fort level. Many “snow­birds” like your­self leave our win­tery cli­mate for an ex­tended pe­riod each year. Of­ten, lit­tle con­sid­er­a­tion is given to their home left be­hind. You are to be com­mended for your fore­thought in re­al­iz­ing that a small amount of work be­fore you leave may save you a ma­jor headache when you are away in a warmer lo­ca­tion, far away. You have al­ready men­tioned hav­ing a friend, rel­a­tive, or neigh­bour do pe­ri­odic checks on your home is planned, which is im­por­tant for sev­eral rea­sons. Hav­ing this done may also be a re­quire­ment of your home in­sur­ance, so check with your bro­ker to see if there is a fre­quency of vis­its noted in your pol­icy, to be on the safe side. How much ef­fort you put into clos­ing up your home for the win­ter months, while away, may par­tially de­pend on your per­son­al­ity. If you are the type to fret about for­get­ting to lock your doors or leav­ing lights on, af­ter leav­ing your home to do your daily busi­ness, then a greater ef­fort may ease your mind. If you are more laid back and feel you are well-cov­ered by in­sur­ance, mon­i­tored alarms, and sched­uled vis­its by friends, then lit­tle may re­quire to be done. At a min­i­mum, shut­ting off the main wa­ter sup­ply valve to the home, or the wa­ter pump if you have a well, should be at­tempted. What­ever your pref­er­ence, the wa­ter sup­ply is the most im­por­tant item to ad­dress for two main rea­sons. First, be­cause wa­ter-sup­ply pipes are un­der pres­sure, if a leak de­vel­ops in the pipes while you are gone, even a small one, the home could be sub­stan­tially flooded as the pres­sur­ized wa­ter will flow in­def­i­nitely. This could cause se­ri­ous wa­ter dam­age and mould growth in the home, which would re­quire ma­jor re­pairs. If the sup­ply pipes freeze, due to a lengthy loss of heat to the build­ing, they could ex­pand, split, and cause a ma­jor leak when the heat re­turns and melts the ice. If the wa­ter sup­ply was turned off and this occurred, there would be min­i­mal dam­age, or pos­si­bly none if the wa­ter was drained from the pip­ing. This brings me to your next de­ci­sion, whether to drain the sup­ply pip­ing once the wa­ter sup­ply is shut off, or not. This may de­pend on the type of wa­ter sup­ply, mu­nic­i­pal or well, and the lo­ca­tion of your home. If you live in a city or a town with a re­li­able elec­tri­cal util­ity and con­stant, even wa­ter pres­sure from the wa­ter treat­ment fa­cil­ity, you may not bother drain­ing the sup­ply pipes. Do­ing so would make it more dif­fi­cult for your house-checker to pe­ri­od­i­cally flush the toi­lets, re­fill the sink traps, wa­ter plants, or clean up any­thing that may need wa­ter. If the sup­ply pipes are drained, the main valve could eas­ily be turned back on, but the sud­den change of pres­sure could cause a leak in a dry seal or poorly se­cured pipe. It would also be much more work for that per­son to drain the pipes ev­ery time they came for a visit, if they had to use the wa­ter while there. If you live in a ru­ral or semi-ru­ral area, where you have your own well and pump, drain­ing the en­tire sys­tem may be a good idea. The main con­cern in a home like that would be the pos­si­bil­ity of a pro­longed power fail­ure caused by a win­ter storm or fall­ing tree. If th­ese were to dam­age an over­head Hy­dro line on to the property, power could be off for a long time be­fore it was dis­cov­ered. It may take a few days for the tem­per­a­ture in an in­su­lated and well-sealed home to drop be­low the freez­ing point, but this could cer­tainly hap­pen if no power or heat was avail­able. If the wa­ter pump is shut off, and the sup­ply pipes are com­pletely drained, lit­tle to no dam­age may oc­cur. In that case, it would also be wise to empty the toi­let tanks and fill the bot­tom of the bowls and the sink traps with plumb­ing an­tifreeze, which would pre­vent dam­age to the drains, as well. Pe­ri­odic check­ing of your va­cant home while you are away, hav­ing a mon­i­tored alarm with tem­per­a­ture sen­sors, and re­mov­ing snow and mail may all be com­mon sense items, but at­ten­tion to your plumb­ing sys­tem should be a pri­mary fo­cus. Shut­ting off your sup­ply valve or pump should be manda­tory, but drain­ing the sup­ply pip­ing and in­stalling an­tifreeze in the traps may be overkill, un­less your home is lo­cated in an area prone to fre­quent power fail­ures or you have an older heat­ing sys­tem. Ari Marantz is the owner of Trained Eye Home In­spec­tion Ltd. and the past pres­i­dent of the Cana­dian As­so­ci­a­tion of Home & Property In­spec­tors — Man­i­toba ( Ques­tions can be emailed to the ad­dress be­low. Ari can be reached at 204-291-5358 or check out

his web­site at trained­


Frozen or bro­ken pipes can cause se­ri­ous dam­age to a va­cant home.

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