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4 Easy Steps To Shut The Water Off For The Winter

Hello everyone – welcome to this week’s episode of “How NOT to Call the Plumber!”.

November is that time of year, at least for me, that signifies we are on a steady course away from the nice warm summer and into the cold, dreary, Toronto winter (as you can tell, it’s not my favourite season). With the cooler weather, it's time to start thinking about “winterizing” your home.

Today, let’s go through the 4-step process on how to make sure your outdoor faucets are properly shut off and drained, so they don’t freeze and subsequently burst over the next few months!

Before we get into the nitty gritty, we should note that not all of you will have to take these steps, as some of you will have what are called “frost free” hose bibs. If you have one of these, it’s both a blessing and a curse. In theory, they are a “set it and forget it” kind of thing. They are designed in a way that when shut, the water is actually stopped inside the warm portion of the house, rather than out in the cold like a “normal” hose bib. Now, if that frost free hose bib wasn’t installed with the proper slope, or you forget to remove the hose, you’re going to be in trouble. Unfortunately, you won’t even know it has failed until you turn on the hose in the spring and come downstairs to water in the basement! Replacing this style of hose bib usually means cutting into the ceiling or wall in the basement, so you have a drywall/paint repair to deal with as well.

Now, if you’re a pleb like me and have a “normal” hose bib, there are 4 steps you need to take to make sure nothing is going to freeze and burst over the winter:

1. Turn off the water from inside the house, usually using a valve somewhere in the ceiling of the basement. Make sure this valve doesn’t start dripping once you’ve shut it as they often will after months/years of inactivity!

2. Go outside and remove any hoses/splitters/etc. from the hose bib. Try your best to drain these as well, as they will also freeze and potentially burst on you over the winter.

3. Open the hose bib outside and LEAVE IT OPEN over the winter. The reason for doing this, is that the valve you’ve closed in Step 1 can fail in that it hasn’t shut the water completely, letting water back into that pipe that we want to be empty. If this is the case, we want to know that valve has failed, rather than having the pipe fill back up, become pressurized again, etc. You will either see continual drips coming from the hose bib days after you’ve gone through this process, or later in the year, a large icicle will form! If either of these things happen, you know it’s time to replace that valve inside the house.

4. Lastly, go back inside the house and remove the “bleeder” cap from the valve you’ve shut in Step 1. This bleeder cap is going to be a small, ¼” cap on the side of the valve. Have a cup or something similar to catch any water, because the goal here is to release any water that is still stuck in that pipe. Once the water has stopped, but that bleeder cap back on until next year. Now, many of you won’t have this bleeder cap, as you’ve had 100 years of work done on your house by people who don’t know what they’re doing! If this is the case, you may want to consider replacing the valve with a proper setup. Your pipes may not have burst yet, but they are getting older and more fragile, so it is just a matter of time!

If you have any trouble with this, remember that we are always here to help!



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