Freezing Spigots and Your Garage

Here in the Pacific Northwest we recently had a stretch of nearly a week of sub-freezing temperatures. It was a little early in the year for this, so I had not yet put the styrofoam insulation on the outside water spigots of my Vancouver, Wa., home. Not surprisingly the water still trapped in them froze. I tested the valves and sure enough, nothing.

I called John Fazzolari and asked him about it. He had a couple of helpful tips:

1. Don’t wait until after the freeze to insulate your spigots. (thanks)
2. Find the main water shut-off valve to the house and show it to your family so they know how to shut it off if a pipe bursts.
3. Shut off the water to and then drain spigots on walls that don’t border a heated space of your home, such as the garage.

Water shutoff valve in the garage above the water heater.

Water shutoff valve in the garage above the water heater.

For item 3, here’s what I did: If your home is a little newer (mine was built in 1996) then there’s a good chance the plumber installed, near your water heater, a valve that shuts off the water to the spigots that border the garage walls.

I looked and sure enough, hiding behind the expansion tank was a valve handle. I turned it off, then walked around the wall to the spigot and drained the water (I had to wait for a thaw).

There are of course several other common tips for preventing freezing pipes:

4. Insulate exposed pipes, including those outside or near exterior walls. Check your basement and crawl spaces for these as well. In some areas of the country use heat tape.
5. Look for air leaks where pipes enter the home and seal with spray foam.
6. If you leave for the holidays or for that ski vacation, keep your thermostat at 55 degrees.
7. If you are leaving for an extended period, shut off the water to your home and drain the entire system.

I’ve been fortunate to not have had a pipe burst in my home, but the stories I have heard usually allow me to overcome any procrastination. This time, I procrastinated and I got lucky.

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