When the temperature tumbles and golden leaves fall, there’s a good chance your plumbing might start to give you some trouble. To get ahead of any plumbing issues, it’s a good idea to start taking some preventive measures before Old Man Winter knocks at your door.
“Fall is a great time to check for any plumbing damages and make any necessary repairs,” says Michael Green, vice president of operations for Benjamin Franklin Plumbing.
During the fall season, your home may suffer from water heater problems, clogged drainage, a stuck garbage disposal, or a frozen pipe. But to help you focus your maintenance efforts, here are a few of the more common plumbing problems you might see around your house.
1. Cluttered gutters
Nothing says fall like a pile of leaves. But you don’t want those leaves to settle into your home’s gutters.
“Full gutters can lead to a host of problems, including roof damage and foundation issues or cracks,” says Green.
To prevent these issues, grab your ladder and thick gloves and get to work clearing out those gutters. Make sure to take a bucket with a small shovel to remove debris and other gunk. Then, rinse the gutters with a hose and inspect them—along with downspouts—for damage or cracks.
Watch: Essential Gutter Maintenance Tips To Protect Your Home and Save You Thousands
2. Clogged cleanouts
The cleanout is found close to the home and provides access to plumbing through an outside pipe that typically sticks out of the ground.
“When the leaves fall, they can fall into the cleanout if the cap or cover is damaged or opened. These leaves can cause a backup of water flow, causing a plumbing issue,” says Doyle James, president of Mr. Rooter Plumbing.
Homeowners may require a professional camera inspection and drain snaking to ensure there’s no obstruction.
“You will also want to make sure the cleanout cap is not cracked or broken to avoid debris from entering the cleanout,” says James.
3. Unclean sump pump
The sump pump’s filter screen can collect debris in the fall, such as mud, leaves, and pebbles—which can lead to clogs, premature pump shut-off, or even standing water in the basement.
“A quick visual inspection should let you know whether or not the sump pump is working and if there’s a problem,” says Green. “Catching it early is crucial.”
The easiest way to determine if your sump pump is unclean is by slowly pouring a bucket of water into the sump pit. If it automatically starts up, everything’s fine. If not, it’s time to do some maintenance.
“Wipe the filter clean, unplug the sump pump, and carry it outside, along with the drain,” Green advises. “Disconnect the drain line, and use a hose to flush out any debris or clogs. Then, flush the entire unit with water.”
Clean the entire sump pit, and then put it back in. Then, pour a bucket of water into the pit to ensure the system is working.
“It’s best to do this before the winter snow sets in,” says Green.
4. Root intrusion
After a drought season, root intrusion can be a problem.
“The first heavy rain of the season can cause tree roots to grow and stretch out as they search for water,” says James. “These roots may penetrate cracks in plumbing pipes and block the water draining from the fixtures in the home as they flow to the main sewer line.”
If you have large trees on your property, you may need to call in a plumbing professional who can perform a camera inspection and drain snaking to remove the obstruction.
5. Small or hidden leaks
Did an especially rainy day cause a small leak in your living room? Don’t ignore it!
“It can be easy to write off small leaks in your home,” Green says, “but they can be dangerous. If there’s a hidden leak in the plumbing system, water could seep into areas with electric wiring, and wiring sparks could start a fire.”
Watch out for unexpectedly high water bills or discolored spots after a rainy day that may indicate a leak. If you do suspect you have a leak, call a plumber who can diagnose the problem.
6. Garden hose mishaps
It’s easy to forget to put away garden hoses in the hope of one last gasp of summer temps. But neglecting to put them away before temps dip could spell trouble.
“Make sure all garden hoses are detached, and if the outdoor spigots are not freeze-proof, protect them with at least a foam cover to avoid the potential of freezing, bursting, and flooding,” says James.