Preparing Your Pipes For A Hurricane In Florida
By KC Williams, ESQ
Hurricane Plumbing Preparation Tips: What Can You Do?
Preparing your plumbing for a hurricane can be overwhelming. Everyone knows to buy food, water, and batteries but there’s a lot more that goes into hurricane preparation that isn’t necessarily common knowledge—especially when it comes to your home’s plumbing.
When storm drains are dealing with a large amount of precipitation from a hurricane, the sewer mains get surcharged with water. When that water is maxing out the system, where does the sewage waste go? Unfortunately, it gets pushed back toward the house. It can re-enter your home at its lowest points. With nowhere else to go, sewage and water can enter the home. This causes damage to your floors, walls, furniture, appliances and other belongings.
Drain lines, which are often made of cast iron pipes can break or fail and become blocked and can cause waste water and sewage to back up into your property.
Cast iron drain piping in theory is supposed to last 50-75 years. Indeed, in other parts of the country and of the world, that may be the case. It’s becoming clear, however, that our region is different. Conditions in Florida are very tough on cast iron. We’re talking about underground piping, after all, and our soil is salty and moist. That’s a perfect storm for corrosion where cast iron is concerned.
If your home is still symptom-free, it’s nevertheless still a serious, ticking-clock problem that demands your attention. There’s no getting around fixing it, other than selling the house and moving out.
Make sure your drains are completely clear of all debris. Drains that are clogged or cluttered with debris will not be able to handle the overload of rain and other debris that comes along with a hurricane.
Other drains, including street sewers, can become clogged over time with grass clippings and other natural debris. Clear as much as you can away to keep the drain working. A sewer backup can cause unnecessary damage during a storm and result in costly repairs.
Water Heater Check
You will not need hot water during a hurricane. Switch off your water heater. Having it operate during a hurricane just puts unnecessary pressure on your household plumbing system. This safety strategy also turns the appliance into a convenient source for gallons of potable water.
Water Valve Check
Switch off your main water pipe before the storm or hurricane hits to ensure that your household water supply does not get contaminated from outside sources. Please remember to ensure that you open a tap that’s in the furthest corner away from the main line to allow air inside the plumbing system. Be frugal with your water use. Keep the main water valve off, so you’ll need to use bottled water or other water you have prepared for cooking and cleaning.
Sump Pump Check
If you have a sump pump, you may just be saved. It will ensure that you avoid the worst-case scenario of water damage to your property’s foundation. Make sure that your sump pump is in a good condition before the storm arrives by raising the float and make sure it runs correctly! Check the battery and the backup one if necessary.
Seal It Up
Make sure that all your service lines (such as your water, gas and even your electrical line) are properly sealed. This means that these lines need to be waterproof. If your service lines aren’t properly sealed and they enter through your foundation wall, your foundation will end up flooding.
Look for any signs of water damage in the area around your toilet as this is a sign the wax seal is leaking. Also use dye in the tank water and wait 30 minutes. If it shows up in the bowl within that time, there’s a leak which could cause trouble during a storm.
Preparation is key to minimizing plumbing damage during major storms. You need to thoroughly check your plumbing once the hurricane passes. You should switch on your water valve and ensure that all of your plumbing fixtures are in working order. Inspect the outside of your home or property to ensure that any fallen trees or debris have not impacted your underground plumbing system – however, make sure you watch out for exposed electrical lines before you exit your home!