Winter plumbing: preventing pipe bursts & flood damage

on Jan 03, 2018

Keeping your plumbing from freezing

Winter weather in Rochester, Minnesota weather is cold – bitter cold. And your pipes and waterlines are under constant threat of freezing and bursting. That’s why it’s important to check your plumbing, especially in the areas where there is little or no consistent source of heat. It’s essential to make sure your pipes are properly insulated and any outdoor hoses are disconnected.

You may even need to make improvements like installing new windows as well as a new furnace and ductwork to get enough heat to where you need it. And don’t forget about your garage. Often times garages face more exposure to freezing temperatures. This might be because the heating system doesn’t reach it, or because it’s not as well insulated as well as the rest of the house

If you’re unsure if your pipes and waterlines are properly insulated, call us: 507-254-8680

IMPORTANT: Know where your main water shutoff valve is and how to use it

Because freezing and thawing can cause pipes to burst and lead to leaks and flooding, it’s essential that you know where your shutoff valve is located. This knowledge could save you thousands in damages.

Generally, the main shutoff valve will be in your basement. If you’re struggling to find it, locate your water meter – the shutoff valve should be close by. If for some reason you still can’t find it, check your property inspection report, which should list the location.

Once you’ve located it, you’ll need to know how to shut it off. To stop the flow of water, turn the valve handle clockwise.

There are usually two types of valves:

  • One type is a flat straight piece of metal (often with a colored rubber grip on it), which should only turn about 90 degrees
  • The other type is like your outdoor spigot shutoff – a metal knob that has a pentagon or hexagon-like shape which turns clockwise.

What to do if you have a leak

While it’s essential to know where your main water shutoff valve is, it’s just as important to know how to shutoff other water sources. If you have a leak that is confined to one source, like your toilet, then it usually best to shutoff that source before going all the way to your main shutoff valve.

Typical sources of leaks and how to locate the shut-off:

  • Toilet – Most often, the shutoff lever is located behind the toilet near the floor by the by the metal tubing. It usually looks like an oval – think football-shaped metal knob. Turn it clockwise until it stops.
  • Sink – Generally, there are two sets of flexible metal tubing in or behind your cabinet.  The tubes will have a lever that you turn clockwise to stop.
  • Washer – The shutoff valves are usually behind the washer near the top of it. If you do not see the valves, slide the washer further out (be careful not to disconnect anything) and you will likely see them.
  • Showers and Bathtubs – If there is exposed plumbing, the shutoff valves will be clearly visible. If not, they may be behind a panel. Otherwise, they’re probably not accessible without cutting a hole in the wall.

Questions about your plumbing?

Call Elsmore Plumbing at 507-254-8680 or email us at

For greater peace of mind, hire a professional to get the job done right the first time. Saving a couple hundred dollars isn’t worth exposing your home and family to the risk of a burst pipe and major leak, which can cost you thousands.

Treat your toilet well

on Jul 26, 2017

Seriously though, caring for your toilet is no joke. Your porcelain throne is the cornerstone of your bathroom. It's used on a daily basis, so you need to ensure it's got a clean bill of health. Not properly caring for your toilet leads to water damage and the deterioration of components. This ultimately results in you having to shell out your hard earned greenbacks (it's generally not cheap). That's exactly what we hope to prevent.

We're here to tell you that the old adage, "if it's yellow, let it mellow. If it's brown, flush it down..." isn't the best advice. While we're all in favor of not wasting money and water, going long periods without flushing causes calcium build-up like what you see in the image to the right. This build-up could end up causing drainage problems that result in damage. The expensive repairs will likely cost you MUCH more than the amount you've saved in water costs. 

If you're serious about water conservation and your budget's bottom line, there are many great ways to save without creating costly damage. One way is by installing a high-efficiency toilet. If you live in Rochester, make sure to check out the Rochester Public Utilities (RPU) rebate program which currently enables you to save $50 off of a high-efficiency toilet. 

Speaking of mellow, don't put cleaning tablets in your toilet tank. Using them will void all warranties for your toilet. Toilet tank tablets contain harmful chemicals that hang out in your tank and destroy the rubber components (they're kind of like the teenagers of the cleaning product world). You'll end up with costly water leaks and prolonged use can cause even more damage that will likely require full replacement of your toilet! We suggest only using cleaning products in the bowl.

It's all about that toilet TLC! 

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