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BBS 10-22-2004 07:06 AM

Cottage closing
We've decided to close the cottage for the winter and I have a couple of questions about the water supply.

1. I plan to close the water shutoff valve outside the cottage. The hot water heater is in the lowest corner of the crawl space so I assume that if I drain the tank from the valve at the bottom that it will also drain all of the pipes. Is this true? Should I open all of the taps when I do this?

2. I'll put R/V antifreeze in all of the traps. But what about the dishwasher and washing machine? Do I pour the antifreeze in and then use the "drain" cycle to get it into the trap? What about the toilet? I know that it needs to be flushed to drain the tank and then the bowl should be sponged out... but isn't there a trap in there too? Do I need to flush anitifreeze in to make sure that it gets into the trap?

Thanks for any suggestions; I'd rather not have to deal with broken plumbing next spring.

Island-Ho 10-22-2004 12:29 PM

Winterize Toilet
Let me answer the toilet question. Yes, flush the tank after turning off the water, then sponge out the bottom of the tank. You don't want to completely sponge out the bowl, because what you see is half of the trap. Just take out part of the water, then pour in the antifreeze for a 50/50 mix until you reach the normal bowl level. Emptying the bowl (trap) would expose the house to sewer gas - not desired.

ghoti 10-22-2004 12:37 PM

1) Here's what I do. Turn off the water supply outside. The type of valve I have allows the water in the supply line to the house to drain back thru the valve. Open one or two of the cold water faucets to allow air to enter the system as the water drains back out. Then I turn off the electric power to the heater (or gas if that's what you have), and open one or two of the hot water faucets so that air can enter the lines and the tank as the water drains. Then I open the drain on the tank and let it drain completely.

2) As far as RV antifreeze goes, I put a cup or two in all the drains - sinks, shower, tub; flush the toilet, sponge out the tank completely and sponge excess water out of the toilet bowl. But leave enough water to cover the trap so that you don't get sewer gases coming back thru. Then put enough antifreeze with the remaining water in the bowl so that it's about a 50/50 mix. The water may get a little slushy in winter, but it won't freeze. Put a few cups in the tank to keep the flapper and other parts from freezing and sticking together. Also, if you have a sprayer attached to the kitchen sink, don't forget to take the spray nozzle off and let the water drain. I usually try to put a little antifreeze in the hose too but you'll need a very small funnel or lots of patience for that.

We don't have a dishwasher or washing machine in our cottage so can't help you with that.

This has worked for me for about 15 years, and we've never had any damage yet.

Good luck.

DRH 10-22-2004 03:53 PM

Dishwasher/Washing Machine

Originally Posted by ghoti
We don't have a dishwasher or washing machine in our cottage so can't help you with that.

BBS - Yes, you have the right idea concerning your dishwasher and washing machine. Each of them has a pump that usually retains some water in it, so you should pour non-toxic RV antifreeze (maybe 2-3 cups) into the tub and then activate the machine's cycle that pumps the water out. That will draw the antifreeze into the pump and then any liquid retained in the pump over the winter will be antifreeze, or a mix of antifreeze and some water. As the others said, it is important to pour some antifreeze into each sink, shower, bathtub, toilet, etc. trap you have in the house to protect against freezing and also to prevent foul-smelling fumes from coming up the pipes into the house.

Also, ghoti is right about remembering to turn off the electricity (or gas) to your hot water heater before draining it!

Bear Islander 10-22-2004 04:20 PM


Open every valve you can find, and remove every little screw on drain cap (mostly at valves) that you can find. Save the caps in a place where you can find them in the spring.

Sponging out the toilet is a little yucky. Drain the back tank into the toilet then plunge out the toilet to remove most of the water. Pour RV antifreeze into the back tank, it will mix with the water in the bottom of the tank and drain into the bowl mixing with the water that is there. Don't be stingy with the antifreeze. The toilet bowl IS the trap. Make sure all the traps have antifreeze, the liquid prevents bad smelling gasses from venting up into the house.

Disconnect and drain the washing machine hoses. Run the machine through fill cycle for a minute while switching from hot to cold. This will drain the water at the valve into the drum. Pour antifreeze into the drum and run the machine on the empty cycle. This will protect the water left in the machine and pump, and it will pump antifreeze into the trap.

Pour antifreeze into the dish washer and run on empty cycle.

Pour antifreeze into all the sinks to protect the traps.

Unscrew the head from the sink spray nozzle. With the faucet open blow into the hose to push out as much water as you can.

The most important thing is to TURN OFF THE WATER HEATER BEFORE YOU EMPTY IT! If it is gas turn the control to OFF. If it's electric turn off the breaker and put a piece of tape over it so you will not turn it on by mistake in the spring. The heating elements will burn out in seconds if they are not in water. In the spring fill it before you turn it on.

You didn't say if your fridge has an ice maker. If it does drain the lines the best you can. Unplug the fridge and leave the doors open all winter.

Place any liquids that might freeze in the tub or shower. Things like shampoo, windex, etc. Most of them will be OK but if even one leaks it can make a mess.

If you have a pump look for any drain plugs or drain valves, drain the tank.

BBS 10-25-2004 07:49 AM

Great advice!
Thank you all for taking the time to walk us through the process. Now we'll just have to live with separation anxiety until Spring.

BBS2 10-25-2004 08:40 AM

I'll second that. We have a lot of work ahead of us this weekend :(

Blue Thunder 10-27-2004 10:11 AM

One more thing!!
One more thing you need to at least check. In addition to the drain on your dishwasher you need to winterize the hot water supply to it. It has a valve that is similar to the refrigerator/ice maker valve. It opens and closes at the beginning of each cycle to fill the dishwasher tub with hot water. If you have a flexible supply hose, you'll need to disconnect it, turn the dishwasher on and either let it drain or put a small burst of compressed air in the hose to blow the trapped water out. A small compressor from Sears or Home Depot is worth it's weight in gold when winterizing a cottage. Don't trust the fact that all the water will run out. I hook mine up to an outside faucet and blow all the faucets and other supply lines one by one.
Good Luck!

Blue Thunder

loony 10-28-2004 07:52 AM

Winterizing toilet-draining bowl
I use a small manually operated bilge pump to drain toilet bowl (cylinderical tube type with hose coming out the side) into the bathtub. It only takes a few strokes an you're done- and not too yucky. You must rembember turn the pump upside down after the last stroke to drain it. I then pour antifreeze into bathtub trap, and enough antifreeze into the toilet to seal out sewer gasses.
If you plan to use the house at all over the winter I suggest removing as much water from the toilet as possible so the antifreeze is more concentrated. January one year, water in the toilet appeared slushy, but there was some more solid ice not visible up in the trap that caused a bit of a flood when 1st flushed. 2nd flush was okay.


phoenix 10-30-2004 06:54 PM

when it doubt get a plumber, may cost you a little in the Fall but could save you money in the Spring good luck

Mink Islander 11-01-2004 01:49 PM

One more thing.
Regarding toilets, after draining the bowl and tank (like someone else I use a plunger-style bailer -- works great) I suggest you fill the bowl by pouring the RV antifreeze through the pipe in the tank that feeds water into the rim of the toilet bow. That way, any trapped water around the rim gets flushed through and into the bowl. Be wary about diluting that RV antifreeze much. It's not designed to be diluted. At $2.50 a gallon at Wally World (and environmentally safe too!), I'd be very generous when filling traps.

I'd also strongly urge using a compressor to ensure that you blow the water out of all the low points. Easy to set up a connector that will connect to an outside spigot and after you've gravity drained everything as much as possible, put 35 PSI into the system and open valves one by one to ensure they're blown clear. You'll need to shut off the toilet valves during this process too to maintain pressure in the system. Remember to turn on the washer (hot and cold water) and start the dishwasher too to blow out the inlet valves (all before adding antifreeze and cycling that through to winterize the outflow pumps). Just remember to run the dishwasher and the washing machine once in the spring before loading it to clear the antifreeze.

BBS 11-03-2004 08:27 AM

Compressor question for Blue Thunder/Mink Islander
I like the suggestion to use a compressor to ensure that the lines are clear of standing water. I've looked at small compressors with a holding tank at Home Depot but don't see how it would connect to my outside hose spigot. Is there a special adaptor that I should buy?

Mink Islander 11-04-2004 12:37 PM

Compressor Adaptor
In the plumbing section where you find brass fittings at Home Depot I found a female connector that's threaded for a spigot (looks just like a garden hose connector) and then mated that to a quick release connector for my compressor hose (found in the tools dept with the compressor accessories). As I recall, you'll need to buy an intermediate fitting to connect these two parts together.

Zee 11-04-2004 01:53 PM

Compressor Adaptor
If you go to most RV supply stores, they will have the adaptor. This is a common way for RV'ers to winterize. The one we purchased is nylon.

DRH 11-06-2004 07:03 PM

Thanks, Mink Islander and Zee, for the tip on making an adapter and using an air compressor to blow out the water lines. We have an outside faucet here that's fed by a copper pipe that runs underground for about two feet through a raised flower bed. The faucet is mounted to a stone wall that retains the bed. I've never been totally sure that pipe was completely drained each winter, so I went to Home Depot and got the three fittings you described that let me connect my air compressor to the faucet. We blew out that pipe today ... worked like a charm. In fact, quite a bit of water came out of the drain on the inside shutoff valve when I blew air through the pipe from the faucet, which indicates that the pipe wasn't draining properly in the past. I'm surprised it never froze and split, but at least now I will know for sure it's completely drained each winter. Thanks again for the tip. Often, it just takes someone to mention something like that for others to say, "Gee, why didn't I think of that??"

Mink Islander 11-07-2004 03:09 PM

You're welcome
It's amazing what "collective intelligence" exists on this forum. Makes us all smarter!

madrasahs 11-17-2004 08:32 AM


Originally Posted by BBS
I like the suggestion to use a compressor to ensure that the lines are clear of standing water.

If your cleared lines are all straight, with no curves, the pipes will not fracture from ice pressure. Water pooling in the bottom of a curved pipe will freeze first at both ends, increasing the outward pressure on the pipe as it freezes towards the middle. (Resulting in a crack -- and a leak).

I take a couple of extra minutes for steps not mentioned here previously.

1) In the toilet's water tank, I drape a rag under the float ball which "wicks-away" all the antifreeze/water solution downward into the bowl.

2) Over the RV antifreeze in the bowl, floats a thin sheet of plastic to guard against evaporation. (I haven't missed a summer season for 12 years, but you never know).

3) At the "fully-drained" hot water tank, I attach a short length of garden hose, and reverse-fill the bottom of the tank with RV antifreeze. (You can hear it gurgling into the pool of water that remains after draining).

So far, so good.

Yankee note: My previous local "winterizing guy" preferred "used" automobile antifreeze.

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