A Guide to Winterizing Your Home in the Country

Prepare your country homestead for cold weather with these tips, including how to winterize the plumbing, overwinter the garden, and keep livestock healthy and comfortable under shelter.

| September/October 1989

If you are new to the country, your first warm season will most likely be the best (if the most labor-intensive) vacation of your life. From late spring till fall you can luxuriate in fresh garden produce and minutes-old hen eggs and can take the morning chill off the house with nothing more than a quick kindling fire in the wood stove. But as the zucchini heap up and you actually begin to tire of vine-ripened tomatoes, you'll notice the sun rising later in the morning and setting earlier in the afternoon.

When you see that first rim of ice around the edges of a November rain puddle, country life starts to get serious. As the cold season progresses, more and more time will go into just staying even with the weather: keeping the home fires and home folks fed, the well flowing and the sink draining. The better a job you do of winterizing your home in advance, the easier it will be to get through a country winter with time to enjoy hunting or skiing or skating or ice fishing—or just sitting snug by the fire.

Winterize the Plumbing

Easily the most common problems on a country place in winter are freeze-ups in the plumbing system. At best, a freeze-up will clog a supply pipe along a cold outer wall and delay the wash. At worst, it can back up sewage and split every pipe in the house; when things thaw, you can have sagging ceilings, stained furniture, shorted wiring and a certified mess on your hands.

Cellar-located central heat will keep cellar-located pipes thawed, but if you plan to stay warm with wood, coal or any other type of space heating, your floors and everything under them will be cold. You could be melting snow for tea and hiking to the outhouse from late winter on unless you take special measures.

The water pump. First, no matter what your heat supply, be sure the water pump is frost-free. With a modern well you needn't worry, because your water comes from a submersible push-pump located deep in the well casing. But not all country homes are so up-to-date. Until recently our place was watered by an old, low-pressure Meyers piston push-pump located just beside the well. Sheltering the pump from rain, mud and snow—but not freeze-ups—was a low pump house with a shed roof.

These days water comes from the same old hand-dug, stone-lined well—now connected by twin one-inch copper pipes to a modern suction-type jet pump in the cellar. The supply pipes are buried so deep they'll never freeze, but the pump and attachments are still at hazard in the cold cellar. So I built an inside pump house—a hinged-lidded box—and installed the same device that kept my outside pump from freezing: I wired in a single light socket fitted with a low-wattage light bulb that I keep lit from Thanksgiving to May Day. It gives off enough heat to keep everything inside from freezing and provides light when I need to check on the pump or pressure valve. To keep from having to change the bulb frequently, I use one of those 40-watt "forever" bulbs sold in mail-order catalogs and some hardware stores.

1/1/2014 4:51:23 AM

The outside water pipes must be covered before plumbing since extreme cold would freeze the water inside, due to which pipes would burst outwards. Even get jammed in freezing cold due to such naked pipes.

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