Want to Winterize Your Bathroom? Here’s How!

A good homeowner takes care of their house all year long, with necessary routine maintenance and careful attention to potential problems. Winterizing a bathroom—or preparing it for a long absence—is an important consideration.

Vince Clingenpeel knows a thing or two about taking care of your home. He started out as a bricklayer, later becoming a master carpenter and remodeling contractor who teaches adult education trade classes.

Getting started

Start over at the main water valve: you’ll want to begin by shutting it off. Very easy to do. But be aware that you’re draining the water above the valve; below it is the water coming in from the street, and that needs to be drained
separately. That can be done from the meter outside; if it’s more complicated, you may need the help of a plumber. Draining the rest can be done easily by turning on all the faucets once the main valve has been shut off.

Toilet care
You also want to flush the toilet so that the water level in the tank starts going down: what you’re looking to do is make sure that the tank’s completely empty. There are a number of ways to do that: with a cup, for example. Clingenpeel uses a pump that can be purchased at your local hardware store and just attaches to a standard drill. Pump the water out of the tank and wipe it dry.

The tank isn’t the only thing that needs to be pumped and dried; you need to do the same thing now with the bowl. But you can’t leave it empty. Why? Because it’s essentially a three-inch hole connecting directly to the sewer system! Gas can easily come up out of it. There’s an easy solution. Prepare a mixture that’s half water and half antifreeze and pour it in; just enough to cover the hole.

The tub and shower

Every tub typically has a two-inch drain (this is true for shower stalls as well). And in that drain there’s always about two cups of water. Again, the same idea as we saw with the toilet: that acts as a trap to keep the gases out of your environment. That’s something you don’t want in your house! So again, put the antifreeze mixture in.

If you got two cups of water in the trap, you’ll need one cup of antifreeze with which to displace it. How? Clingenpeel has a handy trick: take the stopper out and use a transmission funnel (again, available from your local hardware store). Wear latex gloves so that your hands are protected, and you’re all set.

The bathroom sink

Again, we’re looking at the trap. This one is obviously smaller than the one associated with the tub, usually a 1 ¼ to 1 ½-inch trap. This sink trap is only going to be holding about one cup of water. Again, you want to protect that area and make sure that no gases escape into your house. You’ll need to add about half a cup of full-strength antifreeze to his small a trap. If you’ve already made up your 50/50 mixture, you can use that, but make sure then that you put in a whole cup so you’ll displace the water sitting in there now. Once you’ve opened your valve, remove your aerator. Once you power up the room again it’s a great opportunity to flush the system.

Finally, look all around the bathroom—in cupboards, drawers, the medicine cabinet, and so on—to make sure there’s nothing there that might freeze, and remove it if there is.