Rental property without running water in the winter

15 Replies

Hi BP team I purchased my first rental property a couple of months ago in the Houston area and I am in the process of doing a small rehab before I rent it out. I opted to not turn on the water since no one is living there and it’s expensive for that neighborhood to have water turned on. My question is, are the pipes at risk of bursting during the winter if there is no water running through them? How can I be proactive in protecting the pipes? It only gets to about 20 degrees at the lowest in Houston and usually not for long. Any advice would be great!

@Courtney Hebert    It's Houston and subtropical weather.  Anyway, if the foundation is a crawlspace the "remote" chance of any freeze would likely occur there assuming the heat is on inside. However, if the foundation vents are closed, it should be fine. If it's a slab foundation and assuming the inside has the heat on then it's fine.  

I think the important thing would be to make sure your heat is on and working so any leftover water in the pipes won't freeze. And you make sure the temps in the coldest part of the house with pipes does not get to freezing.

Working heat is also something to be aware of with tenants who may get heat turned off for non pay... It can cause burst pipes.

If you keep the heat on, there should be no risk.

If you are shutting everything off, I recommend talking to a couple plumbers to see what the risk is. If there is risk, they can winterize the home by blowing out the water lines, emptying the water tank, and putting antifreeze in everything.

Better safe than sorry!

keep all the faucets open once the water is turned off.

If the heat is on, chances are slim that the pipes will freeze.  However, for added insurance, my insurance company recommends turning off the water where it comes into the house.  If a well, I flip the switch on the well pump.  If town water, I close the main.  It's easy once you know where everything is and once the basement (in NE we tend to have basements) is well lit.  

There is little to no chance that it will get cold enough in Houston for your pipes to burst, especially if you have the heat on in the house. Turning the water supply off and draining the lines reduces the risk even more.

Thanks everyone for your great input! It is a slab foundation with city water and I do have electricity in the house, so I’ll be sure to keep the heat on. I appreciate all of the super helpful and quick responses.

Does it have galvanized plumbing?  If so when you leave the galvanized pipes empty and open to the air they will start rusting.  For that matter, they're already rusting.  It will just get much worse when exposed to air.  If you leave galvanized pipe open to the air for any length of time, plan on replacing it.  Galvanized should be replaced, anyway.  Its trouble waiting to happen.

@Courtney Hebert you are right to be concerned.  While we are in Houston and it does not often freeze, pipes do freeze and burst here.  Check if you have bare pipes in the attic, if you do, get them wrapped with pipe insulation.  Even if you have heat on in the house, bare pipes in the attic will freeze and burst.

If the pipes weren't properly winterized, water sitting in any low spots can freeze and burst.  Sometimes it simply creates a weakness at the joints, which leaks later.  Also, any water drops left in the rubber gaskets or seals can weaken them and cause drips later.

Wow, I didn't know it got that cold there!

@Tommy Hopkins good point! I will go tomorrow and check the pipes in the attic.

@Amy A. Surprising right? When it gets that low, it usually only stays for about a week, and then it’ll fluctuate between low 30’s-40’s. Definitely mild compared to the rest of the country but enough to do some pipe damage.

I live in NY so I know haha. Turn the water off and open all the faucets and leave them open until you turn the water back on. That leaves room for the water to expand while it freezes. It will be fine.

HAVE you ever had to fix a pipe under a slab that burst.. WELL open your checkbook.

WHY risk it,,, put heat at low temp and shut water off at the main, if you drain the lines as much as possible fine,, otherwise leave as is 

Call your plumber and find out what he suggests, 

Wow, Houston gets that cold???

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