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Prevent Winter Outdoor Drain Damage in Cincinnati, OH

cold weather

Homeowners in the Cincinnati area are no strangers to cold weather over the winter months. Our cold winters create freezing temperatures which put outdoor drains and outdoor pipes at a high risk of damage due to a freeze. Prolonged exposure to snow and ice as well as cold air can cause remaining water inside drains or pipes to become frozen, which can clog the outdoor drain or drain line, or cause damage as water expands and exerts pressure on the drain or pipe. Snow piles and ice accumulation as well as other debris can build up and cause a blockage of the outdoor drain, preventing it from removing excess water away from the house.

Outdoor drain blockages prevent a drain from working properly and stop the flow of water away from the home’s foundation and basement. Standing water can sit on the ground and additional water may leak into the walls of the foundation, causing flooding and water damage if the sump pump cannot keep up.

Many homeowners know they need to protect outdoor faucets, sinks, the garden hose, and plumbing lines throughout the home, inside and out, that are likely to freeze so that frozen water doesn’t lead to clogged pipes or a pipe burst when freezing temperatures set in over the winter. Despite these efforts to prevent freezing, outdoor drains and pipes often don’t receive the same attention, even though it is necessary to prevent blockages and damage.

Thomas & Galbraith’s licensed Ohio plumbers share what freezing temperature conditions can do to outdoor drainage systems. Learn how to prevent freezing and damage to your outdoor drains this winter and find out what to do if water freezes inside a drain on your property this time of year.

How Does an Outdoor Drain Work?

Many Cincinnati properties have outdoor drains and outdoor pipes in place around the house. The outdoor drains on the lawn and driveway are meant to remove runoff water from the surface of the ground and keep this water flowing away from the house. These outdoor drains and pipes manage rain and storm runoff over the spring, summer, and fall – during the cold winters, they handle runoff from snow or ice that melts on the land.

At any temperature, the purpose of outdoor drains is to prevent water backup and flooding around the home. An increase of standing water or water flowing back toward the structure can lead to water seeping through walls of the basement. The flow of water ends in the sump pump pit, and the sump pump must work to remove the water to protect against water damage and flooding in the home.

Both plastic drains and metal drains can be installed as part of outdoor drainage systems. Each drain connects to pipes that direct the flow of water to a municipal storm sewer or out to the leach field of the private septic tank on the property.

Cold Weather Damages Outdoor Drains

Outdoor drains and pipes are vulnerable to blockages and can freeze during cold weather. Drains can clog with debris from grass clippings, leaves, mulch, and other debris from the yard to form a blockage that prevents water from flowing to the storm sewer and off the property. Over the winter months, snow and ice can accumulate over a drain, also forming a blockage. When outdoor drains are blocked, drainage systems throughout the house may not operate properly, leading to backups and slow drainage impacting plumbing fixtures inside the home.

When the temperature outside is below freezing for prolonged periods of time, the water inside outdoor drains and pipes can freeze. Water that is frozen doesn’t just clog the drain or create a blockage of the pipe – ice can damage these plumbing components. Plastic drains and pipes outdoors are at risk of cracking and breaking as the materials expand and contract due to temperature changes.

Protect Drains from Damage Due to the Cold

Many precautions are taken to prevent water from freezing within faucets, pipes, hose lines, and other plumbing inside the home and along its exterior, but outdoor drains often are forced to face the winter months without the same protections. Here are some preventative tips that can help you avoid blockages, frozen outdoor drains, and damage this winter.

  • Upgrade plastic drains to metal drains made of galvanized steel or other strong, weather-resistant metals. Galvanized steel metal drains are available for channel drains that sit along driveways as well as grates that cover drains on the lawn. Drains made of metal are better able to hold up against cold weather versus plastic materials. Metal parts won’t be as likely to crack or break if they freeze, and they can hold up against the immense weight of snow and ice atop them.
  • Clean gutters and remove all debris including leaves, twigs, and other particles from connected drain lines that lead into the storm sewer. Removing debris from your home’s gutters can keep your roof in better shape over the winter, too. The gutters will drain properly so no water is left behind to form ice, which can weigh down gutters and pull them away from the structure. Damage to the gutters will require professional repairs or replacement, and could cause a drainage issue with runoff due to snow or ice melting on the roof – pools of water may form on the lawn close to the building, with no way to drain away from the residence.
  • Remove debris from the yard. Disposing of leaves, sticks, grass clippings, and other natural materials will help prevent blockages in outdoor drains over the winter months, as there won’t be as much material nearby that could blow into your drains.
  • Clean out the drains on your property. Remove debris from the grates and pipes so that water can flow properly to the storm drain or septic tank field.
  • Inspect the sump pump discharge hose drain before winter. The discharge hose should drain at minimum 20 feet from the home, with the hose directing water to drain in a direction away from the structure. Check the drain exit point for a clog and remove debris if necessary.

How to Fix Frozen Outdoor Drains

If your outdoor drains are frozen at any point over the winter season, they need to be thawed so water runoff can flow away from the building to its intended destination. After water freezes, you can try these methods to melt ice and eliminate a clog in the drain or its pipes.

  • Mix hot water from the water heater with salt, and flush this solution through the drain and pipes to thaw frozen water.
  • Combine water with a deicing agent and pour the solution through the drain and pipes to thaw ice.
  • Connect a hose to indoor hot water supply faucets and allow this water to run over the frozen outdoor drain until it has thawed.
  • Heavy ice accumulation can be melted using a hair dryer to apply heat to the frozen outdoor drain.
  • For frozen outdoor drains and pipes made of metals, a brush torch may be used to melt ice from the area.
  • If a thick layer of ice has formed over the outdoor drain or within its pipes, don’t use a sharp object to chip away at the ice. Doing this could damage the drain cover or the pipes.

Help with Outdoor Drains in Winter

Winter can be a risky time of year for the outdoor drains and pipes installed on your Cincinnati area property, as cold weather can cause freezing and blockages that create a risk of damage to your home’s foundation or basement. Thomas & Galbraith Heating, Cooling & Plumbing offers the information above so you can properly protect your home’s outdoor drains and prevent a frozen drain this winter.

If ice forms in an outdoor drain leading to clogged pipes or a drain blockage, you may need help thawing the ice and restoring proper drainage on your property. Thomas & Galbraith offers the plumbing services you need to fix frozen outdoor drains fast. Trust our licensed Ohio plumbers to perform fast, effective repairs and protect your plumbing components throughout the process. To schedule plumbing repairs to fix frozen outdoor drains this winter, give us a call today.

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