Winter is coming! If you’re closing your cottage for the winter, it is extremely important to drain your pipes to prevent them from freezing and potentially bursting while you’re away. Did you know that water damage is one of the leading causes of home insurance claims in Canada?
Sewer backups, pump failures, or spring thaws can all damage your home or cottage and are sometimes outside of your control. Draining your pipes when you close your cottage for the winter or when you plan on turning your furnace down or off while you’re away is in your control. Don’t add to the statistics and make sure you prevent this common form of damage.
Note: Be sure to do this before the winter’s first freeze!
So, how do you turn off your home’s indoor water supply and drain your pipes?
Step 1: Locate the shut-off point to your home’s water supply. The shut-off valve is generally located near your water meter or where the local water supply enters your cottage, often in the basement (if there is one!). These shut-off valves are typically in a tap-style or lever-style. If it’s a tap-style valve, turn it clockwise (that is to your right). If it is a lever-style, turn the lever clockwise or towards the “off” arrow.
Step 2: Turn on all your taps and flush. Start with the faucets in the basement and work your way upstairs to turn on all the faucets in your cottage. Leave the faucets on so that they fully drain. Don’t forget to flush your toilets. Remove the tank cover from each of the toilets a flush until there is no more left (a hidden source of water!).
Step 3: Anti-freeze your plumbing. Once you are sure that all the water has drained from your faucets, toilets, and indoor plumbing. Pour plumbing anti-freeze down your sinks, bathtub drains, and each of your toilet bowls (plumbing anti-freeze is available all Home Depot, Home Hardware, or any local hardware store). If there is any remaining water lingering in your pipes, this will prevent those drops from freezing.
Step 4: Empty the water in your appliances. Draining your appliances – including your dishwasher, water heater, and washing machine – is something you want to consider. Refer to the manufacturers’ guidelines for shutting off the water supply to them and draining them.
Note: If you will be away for a long time, it is best practice to get someone to check on your property. It’s better to catch an issue sooner than later!
Next, turn off and drain your outdoor water lines
Draining your cottage’s outdoor water supply is just as important as draining the indoor supply. Your outdoor water supply includes any exterior pipes, outdoor faucets, and hoses.
Step 1: Locate the outdoor water shut-off valve. The outdoor water shut-off valve is located on the inside of cottage, on the inside of the wall where the outdoor faucet is located. Remember, if it’s a tap-style valve, turn it clockwise (that is to your right). If it is a lever-style, turn the lever clockwise or towards the “off” arrow.
Step 2: Disconnect the hose. Disconnect your hose from the outdoor faucet. Drain the hose before you store it for the winter.
Step 3: Drain the external pipe. Drain the external faucet and pipe by turning it on and allowing all remaining water to flow out. Once you are sure that all water is out, turn the faucet off.
Step 4: Drain the inside valve. On the inside of your cottage, place a bucket under the shut-off valve and open the drain so that all remaining flows out.
Note: If your cottage has more than one outdoor water source, you must repeat this process for each water source.
Not comfortable doing this yourself, please consult a plumber!
Not everyone is comfortable performing these steps, or has a good enough understanding of the cottage’s plumbing system. Many cottages are unique and may require some additional steps to ensure that all pipes are clear before the winter’s first freeze.
Given the large risk of doing this improperly and the potential damage it can cause, consider consulting with a professional plumber.
When was the last time you reviewed your cottage or seasonal home’s insurance policy with your licensed insurance broker? If it’s been a while, please contact them to make sure that you have adequate coverage to protect your property in the event of a water accident.