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Tips to Prevent Winter Outdoor Drain Damage for Louisville Homeowners

cold weather

Freezing temperatures can be a part of the winter cold weather we experience here in the Louisville, KY area. When water freezes and water expands during the cold winters, outdoor drains and outdoor pipes are susceptible to damage from blockages and pressure from frozen water. Nearby debris such as grass clippings, leaves, and other debris from landscaping and lawncare can blow into an outdoor drain and clog it, and snow and ice accumulation can cover drains, both of which stop water flowing away from the house.

When the flow of water is interrupted by a blockage, clogged pipes in drainage systems, or freeze damage to an outdoor drain, the home’s foundation and basement walls are at risk of a leak. Leaks allow excess water to enter the space, which may cause flooding and water damage if the sump pump is unable to expel additional water or if the sump pump discharge hose is impacted by a clog.

Throughout the Louisville area, many homeowners take precautions to protect plumbing lines from cold temperature exposure over the winter. Winterizing outdoor faucets, water supply pipes, the drain line, and other parts of the home’s plumbing system that are likely to freeze as well as taking action over the winter months to keep these components clear of freezing water inside help prevent freezing and prevent blockages inside pipes and drains, which can cause serious damage inside the home. Unfortunately, homeowners do not always take the same measures to prevent water freezing within outdoor drains and connected outdoor pipes running to the storm sewer or septic tank field on the property. This is often because the outdoor drains and drain line are either out of sight, out of mind, or people simply aren’t aware of the need to protect these areas to keep them working properly in winter.

Jarboe’s Plumbing, Heating & Cooling helps Louisville area residents avoid damage and blockages in outdoor drains and pipe lines over the winter months. Our licensed Kentucky plumbers inform you of the purpose outdoor drains and drainage systems serve as well as how they can be impacted by winter cold weather. Learn how to avoid a frozen drain or pipe and what you should do if water inside outdoor drains and pipes does freeze anytime during the winter season.

The Role of Outdoor Drains Around a Home

Homes across the Louisville area often have outdoor drains and storm sewer drainage systems installed on the property. Drains sit at ground level and are attached to pipes that connect to the shared storm sewer or the private septic tank drain field of the home. The role of this plumbing equipment is to facilitate water flowing away from the house structure. Drains prevent standing water on the surface and direct water runoff from rain as well as melting snow or ice to a safe spot where it will not impact the basement or foundation of a house when working properly.

Why is excess water near a home problematic and why does the flow of water runoff need to move away from a home or building? Without proper drainage, water runoff can increase water levels within t the ground. This water can leak into areas of a structure that sit below the ground’s surface level, such as a crawlspace or basement. Water seeping into these areas will flow to the sump pump pit and this equipment will expel water from the area, as long as the equipment is working as it should and the sump pump isn’t overwhelmed by too much water – which can be the case with flooding. This water causes damage to the home and its foundation, which can be very costly to repair and result in the loss of priceless possessions.

Cold Weather Issues That Can Affect an Outdoor Drain

Outdoor drain systems use plastic drains or metal drains that sit on the surface of the lawn or driveway and remove water runoff from these areas. Exposure to cold weather and freezing temperature conditions over the winter months can cause freezing water to form within these drains and pipes. These temperature shifts as well as pressure placed on the material as ice forms can cause drains and pipes, especially those made of plastic, to crack or break apart.

Blockages are another big problem impacting outdoor drains during the winter. When blockages exist, water runoff is more likely to accumulate near the home and cause the foundation issues and flooding mentioned above.

A blockage can be caused by ice forming within an outdoor drain or outdoor pipe – the ice stops water flowing through the line and creates clogged pipes. Snow and ice buildup at surface level can cover outdoor drains, preventing water from entering the drains and draining away from the home. Debris are another issue that can cause outdoor drains to clog – leaves, grass clippings, mulch, and other debris from across the property can blow around and settle over the outdoor drain, forming a blockage so no water is able to pass into the drain.

Preventing Blockages and Damage to Outdoor Drains During the Cold Winter Months

Cold air temperature and cold weather conditions common in winter make this time of year particularly risky for a home’s outdoor drains and pipes. To avoid blockages and damage due to a frozen drain this winter, there are some actions you can take before and during the winter season that will protect these plumbing parts.

  • Replace plastic drains with metal drains. Galvanized steel metal drains used for channel drains and grates are less likely to be impacted by freezing temperatures or expanding water and sustain damage over the winter. Galvanized steel holds up better than plastics in these conditions, as the material is stronger. As such, galvanized steel drains can support more weight versus plastic and are less likely to break when heavy snow or ice accumulates on top of the drain.
  • Clean gutters of debris before winter arrives to ensure runoff from the home’s roof follows the intended path away from the structure. If you don’t clean gutters and runoff from melting snow or ice isn’t directed away from the house correctly, leaks and foundation issues can occur. When gutters are clogged with debris over the winter, water can build up within these channels – the weight of the ice accumulation can rip gutters away from the roof, causing damage that will warrant repairs from a professional.
  • Prior to winter cold weather, complete lawn maintenance to remove debris around the property. Collect materials like leaves, twigs, grass clippings, and other debris, then dispose of them off the property. By removing these debris, they won’t be able to blow over outdoor drains and clog them over the winter. Blockages will be less likely in outdoor drains, but materials from other yards could still move onto your land and impact drains – throughout the winter, check outdoor drains periodically and remove any debris that you find.
  • After it snows or freezing rainstorms pass, care for the outdoor drains around your home. Snow piles over drains should be removed so water can freely run into the drain. Ice buildup should be removed to keep the drain working correctly. Also, check sump pump drains as the discharge hose exit point can clog as remaining water freezes within the pipe.
  • Pay attention to the home’s sump pump drain hose. The opening of the discharge hose should empty water at least 20 feet away from the structure, with the flow of water directed away from the house, not back towards it. Check the discharge hose opening for any blockage and remove debris to clear it.

Thawing a Frozen Outdoor Drain with Hot Water & Other Methods

Even if you’re careful to protect outdoor drains over the winter, they can occasionally still become frozen. If you find a frozen outdoor drain or pipes that have frozen, they need to be thawed immediately so you don’t experience damage and other issues due to remaining water on the ground’s surface.

Our Louisville plumbers explain methods to thaw pipes and outdoor drains that have frozen during the winter:

  • Add salt to hot water from the home’s water heater and mix into a solution. Pour this solution into frozen outdoor drains to melt ice inside the drain or its pipes.
  • Combine a deicing agent with water and stream this mixture into the frozen drain and pipes to thaw ice.
  • Connect a garden hose to hot water faucets and allow hot water to flow over and into the frozen drain continuously until all ice has thawed.
  • If thick ice forms over the top of outdoor drains, heat the area to melt the ice using a hair dryer.
  • When ice forms over outdoor drains made of metal, you can use a brush torch or other open flame device to melt ice and open the drain – be sure to keep the flame a safe distance from the drain materials to avoid damage.
  • Do not chip away ice buildup with sharp tools, an ice pick, or even a shovel, as doing this can break or damage the drain.

Protect Outdoor Drains During the Louisville Winter Season

Jarboe’s Plumbing, Heating & Cooling helps our Louisville neighbors protect outdoor plumbing components from winter damage, including outdoor drains and pipes along with faucets, water supply pipes, and other plumbing infrastructure. If you need professional assistance upgrading outdoor drains made of plastic to new drains composed of durable galvanized steel or are unable to thaw a frozen drain or pipe on your own and require a plumber’s help, call Jarboe’s right away to make an appointment with one of our licensed Kentucky plumbing professionals.

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