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How to Avoid Winter Outdoor Drain Damage in the Indianapolis Area

winter cold

Over the winter months in Central Indiana, where cold weather and freezing temperatures are common, it’s possible for outdoor drains and outdoor pipes to sustain some damage. Exposure to the cold air, snow and ice, and remaining water can cause elements of drainage systems to freeze and break from pressure as water expands. Winter winds can blow leaves, mulch, and other debris into or over a drain, blocking the drain from removing additional water on the surface of the ground which can lead to ice accumulation.

Once a drain line or the property’s plastic drains have frozen or clog with debris, blockages stop drains from working properly and interrupt the flow of water. A clog or blockage will prevent water from moving away from the house which may allow standing water or flooding to develop, or even send excess water back towards the structure where it can harm the home’s foundation, basement, and walls.

Many homeowners in the Indianapolis area are aware of the need to avoid freezing in outdoor pipes that are likely to freeze such as galvanized steel water supply plumbing lines, the outdoor faucets and garden hose, sump pump discharge pipes, as well as any pipe that leads to sinks and fixtures inside the home, as freezing and ice can cause clogged pipes that eventually burst, leak, and create severe water damage. Unfortunately, outdoor drains on the property don’t receive the same attention, which can lead to damaged pipes and drains.

Williams Comfort Air aims to help homeowners prevent blockages and prevent freezing in outdoor drains once cold weather arrives. Our licensed Indiana plumbers explain what happens when drains become frozen or blocked, as well as what to do if you have a drain or pipe freezing. Also, learn what measures you can take to protect drains and pipes from damage when exposed to cold winter temperature dips as well as snow and ice that commonly collect in yards during periods of cold weather.

How Can Outdoor Drains Be Damaged by Cold Weather?

Many yards and properties have outdoor drains installed to prevent standing water on the surface of the lawn and to keep water flowing away from the structure. During cold winters, outdoor drains are tasked with removing water from melting snow and ice. No matter the outdoor temperature, drains outside the house work to prevent flooding on the property which could impact the foundation or basement. Excess water seeping in through the home’s basement or crawlspace walls can burden the sump pump, causing damage to the sump pump or even flooding and water damage in this part of the residence.

Plastic drains or metal drains sit atop the lawn or are installed in driveways. The drain is connected to pipes commonly made of plastic, but materials such as galvanized steel and copper may also be used. The drain line keeps water flowing toward a shared storm sewer usually installed along the roadway or to the leach field of the home’s private septic tank.

Debris left on the property from times of the year where the temperature is warmer such as leaves, grass clippings, and mulch pieces, can blow around over the winter and rest over drains, which causes blockages. Snow and ice buildup during the cold winters can also clog outdoor drains and block them. Ice formation in a drain or pipe will also clog the drains, so blockages form and the flow of water away from the structure is interrupted. A blockage of outdoor drains could also lead to drainage problems in pipes throughout the home’s drainage systems, causing backups in sinks and other fixtures inside the residence.

When the outdoor temperature is below freezing, water inside drains and pipes is affected by the cold. Frozen water will expand, placing pressure on the pipe or outdoor drain material surrounding it. Drains and pipes made of plastic materials are susceptible to cracking due to the expansion as water freezes, which will cause these plumbing components to break.

Protect Outdoor Drain & Plumbing Components from Winter Damage

The cold winter months are a vulnerable time for outdoor drains and pipes, as cold weather and a lack of upkeep can lead to blockages, flooding, and damage. As a homeowner, you know it’s important to protect outdoor faucets as well as the pipes inside your home so that they don’t freeze in the face of cold conditions, but to you know what to do to protect each outdoor drain on your property?

  • If you have an outdoor drain made of plastic, upgrade to metal drain components. Metal drains made of galvanized steel and other materials are used for driveway channel drains and grates for drains installed in the lawn. This type of drain is better able to withstand the cold temperatures and cold weather over the winter months versus plastic components. Metal drains aren’t as likely to be impacted by a freeze and crack or break. The material is stronger so the drain is better able to withstand the weight of heavy snow or ice accumulation.
  • Clean gutters in the fall and remove debris from connected pipes that drain into the storm sewer system. Removing debris from the gutters prior to winter will also help protect your roof from damage should water collect within the gutters and freeze to become ice. Ice can weigh down your gutters, tearing them away from the roof, requiring professional repairs. This issue could cause problems with runoff from melting ice and snow accumulating in areas of the yard around the house.
  • Before cold weather arrives, clean up your property. Clean any existing debris from outdoor drains. Bag up leaves, grass clippings, twigs, and any landscaping debris from the yard for disposal. Removing these debris before winter will help prevent the outdoor drains from becoming clogged over the winter months, which could damage the drain or its connected pipes.
  • During the winter months, maintain each drain outdoors on your property. Anytime it snows or we experience freezing rain or sleet in the Indianapolis area, go outside after inclement weather has passed and remove accumulation from atop the drain.
  • Check your sump pump drains before winter arrives. Discharge drain pipes for sump pump systems should empty at least 20 feet away from the home and the flow of water should be directed away from the structure – verify that the drains or discharge hose lead water away from the foundation to avoid damage. Make sure the opening of the discharge hose or drain pipe are clear. Remove any debris that have blocked the opening of the hose or pipe.

What to Do If You Have Frozen Outdoor Drains this Winter

Despite your best efforts, a frozen drain outside may still occur on your property this winter. Many people know how to thaw frozen faucets and pipes inside the home, but are less familiar with caring for frozen outdoor drains. If you notice water has frozen over a drain or below the drain grate in the pipes this winter, here are some tips that will help you thaw your outdoor drains.

  • Combine hot water from your home’s water heater with salt and pour this mixture through the frozen drain and pipes.
  • Mix water with a deicing agent and use this mixture to pour into the frozen drain and connected pipes.
  • Use a hose connected to indoor faucets to keep hot water flowing over the frozen area until the drain and pipes thaw out.
  • If a drain is covered by a thick layer of ice, apply heat to the area using a hair dryer if the drain or pipes are made of plastic material.
  • If the drain and other drain components are made of metal materials, you can use a brush torch to add heat to the area and thaw frozen water over or within the drain.
  • Do not use sharp tools to break away ice that has formed over or within the drain, as doing so could cause damage to the drain components.

Protect Outdoor Drains This Winter Season

Freezing temperatures can impact the outdoor drains around your home just as much as they can cause issues in faucets and water supply pipes elsewhere. With the guidance above, you can protect your outdoor drains and avoid clogged pipes in the drain system caused by frozen ice within. If you need assistance upgrading your outdoor drains or thawing them should you discover a frozen one this winter, call Williams Comfort Air right away! Our licensed Indiana plumbers are always available to assist you in improving your home’s plumbing system, and we offer fast, reliable plumbing repairs to protect your home’s plumbing components and drains when they are impacted by cold weather.

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