Advice to Help You Avoid Winter Outdoor Drain Damage in Central Indiana

Cold weather during the winter months leads to many days of freezing temperatures here in the Indianapolis area. When the temperature is this cold for a period of time, the outdoor drains and outdoor pipes around your house could encounter some problems. If water freezes within the drains or pipes, the outdoor drain or plumbing lines may break from the pressure placed upon them as water expands to form ice. A variety of things can lead to blockages of these drainage systems, such as debris around the drain; grass, leaves, and other debris that blow into the drain line; and snow and ice accumulation over the top of drains.

When your home’s outdoor drains and pipes aren’t working properly, the flow of water runoff can be interrupted or misdirected. Issues with an outdoor drain can lead to standing water forming on the ground, a leak in the home’s foundation or basement walls that allows seeping water inside, and even flooding in these parts of the home if the sump pump is unable to keep enough water flowing out of the pit and out through the discharge hose. The consequences of a clog or damage to an outdoor drain can include serious water damage within the home.

Most Hoosiers know there are steps you need to take each winter to protect outdoor faucets, water supply pipes, your garden hose, and other parts of the home’s plumbing that are likely to freeze. Drains and sewer pipes outside the home don’t always receive the same care. Mr. Plumber helps our Indianapolis area homeowners prevent blockages in outdoor drains over the winter months, as well as prevent water freezing in drains and pipes during cold weather. Licensed Indiana plumbers explain how outdoor drains work and how you can avoid winter outdoor drain damage this year.

How Outdoor Drains Work

Outdoor drains sit along the surface of the ground or the driveway on your property. They are connected to pipes that are buried, and these pipes lead to a storm sewer shared by area residents or the leach field for your home’s private septic tank system. At all points throughout the year, whether it’s summer or winter, the role of outdoor drains is to remove water runoff from areas closely surrounding the house and direct that additional water to a location that’s far enough away that water cannot impact the home’s basement or foundation.

When these outdoor drains keep water flowing in the correct direction, the drains and pipes protect the house from flooding and damage. Melting snow or ice in the winter can add excess water to the ground, saturating it to the point that water can work its way through the basement walls or foundation of the house and spill into that area. The home relies on a sump pump to extract this water – blockages in the sump pump drain hose or simply an overwhelming volume of water can cause these areas to flood, destroying possessions stored in the space.

Ways Cold Weather Impacts Outdoor Drains

The two big problems that can impact outdoor drains around your house as well as their outdoor pipes during cold weather winter months include damage from frozen water and a blockage caused by debris.

  • Anytime there is water sitting within the outdoor drains and the temperature is freezing, this water runs the risk of freezing. The ice that forms can lead to clogged pipes, but it will also damage the drains as the water freeze pushes against the plumbing material. Cold weather temperature conditions can also impact the materials your drains and pipes are made of, and they may break or crack due to temperature shifts.

  • Outdoor drains and pipes can develop blockages from debris as well as cold weather precipitation such as snow or freezing rain. Debris from landscaping on your property or your neighbors can blow into or atop your outdoor drains and clog them, so the flow of water runoff cannot move through the drain or pipe. When outdoor drains have a blockage during the cold winters, it’s possible that drains inside the home will be sluggish or not work correctly, too.

Protect an Outdoor Drain from Cold Weather with These Tips

Many homeowners know to take steps that protect faucets, water supply pipes, and other plumbing components inside the house over the winter months, as cold air exposure could cause them to freeze, break, and leak. You store your hose for the winter, you keep indoor pipes warmer – now take care of your outdoor drains and protect them against damage caused by frozen water or ice accumulation. These tips help prevent freezing in outdoor drains as well as stop blockages.

  • Remove plastic drains and upgrade them to metal drains made of galvanized steel or other durable, weather-resistant materials. Metal drains can be installed along the driveway or on the lawn’s surface to collect water runoff. Metal is much stronger than plastic and able to withstand winter conditions. Metal doesn’t expand and contract as much as plastic does when temperatures change, and metal can resist the pressures of frozen ice forming – a metal drain will be less likely to break this winter. If snow or ice build-up on top of the drain, metal can better support the weight without cracking.

  • In the fall, clean gutters and remove debris from downspouts and drain piping that connects to underground pipes or the storm sewer drainage systems. With clean gutters, you remove many of the obstacles that could interrupt the flow of water runoff from the roof over the winter.

  • Clean debris from the yard in the fall. Bag up and dispose of leaves, grass clippings, and other natural debris so there is less nearby material that could blow into or settle atop outdoor drains and cause blockages. Periodically during winter, check your outdoor drains and remove any debris that have migrated onto your property and into the drain or pipe.

  • Drains for the sump pump also need inspected to make sure they operate correctly. The drain hose should direct water away from the house and empty a distance of at least 20 feet away from the structure. Over winter, water can freeze at the exit point of the hose and clog it, and debris can build up creating a blockage at this drain. Check the sump pump drain hose regularly and clear away any blockage you find.

Hot Water and Other Tips to Thaw Frozen Outdoor Drains

Remaining water can freeze inside outdoor drains anytime the temperature is low enough for a prolonged period of time this winter. If you find ice in a drain or pipe outside your home, you need to fix the frozen plumbing as soon as possible. This advice will teach you how to thaw frozen drains and pipes outside so you can quickly clear them.

  • Fill a bucket with hot water from your water heater and stir in salt. Pour the bucket of water solution into the frozen drain to thaw ice.

  • Fill a bucket with water from faucets and add a deicing agent. Use this solution to pour through a frozen drain so that the ice melts away and the drain opens.

  • Using hoses attached to faucets, keep warm water running over a frozen drain. The water will eventually melt away any ice over or within the drain.

  • Use a hair dryer to melt away thick layers of ice that have formed over outdoor drains.

  • If outdoor drains are made of metal, you can use a brush torch to melt ice – just pay close attention to where you position the torch so that you don’t damage the drain.
  • Don’t attempt to chip away layers of ice using sharp objects, shovels, or other inappropriate tools. These items can damage the drain instead of removing ice from the outdoor drain.

Winter Outdoor Drain Help

Frozen ice and blockages in outdoor drains can cause all sorts of problems in and out of your Indianapolis home this winter. With the right information, you can protect these parts of the home’s plumbing system and limit the risk of winter issues. Should you experience a frozen drain you cannot thaw or need professional assistance upgrading drains on your property, call Mr. Plumber to schedule service. 

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