Dewinterize a House

A Step by Step Guide

A red house in a winter storm
Todd Ryburn Photography / Getty Images

It is necessary to dewinterize a house to reverse winterizing on a house that has been empty during the cold season. When a house has been winterized it usually means that the water was shut off and drained down in most of the plumbing system to prevent freezing. Sometimes flex lines are disconnected from sinks, toilets, dishwashers and washing machines as well. Water heaters are usually drained and the water flex lines are sometimes left disconnected from the water heater or water softeners. Another form of winterizing is done by filling the water lines and drain line traps with RV anti-freeze. This anti-freeze is usually poured into the dishwasher and washing machines and cycled a little bit to get it into the traps of the machines so nothing freezes and breaks. To dewinterize a house that was winterized by a professional service sometimes it is easier to just have them come back and reverse the process because they know exactly what was done. If you can’t have the same professional or don’t know who winterized a house there are some basic steps you can follow to do it yourself.

How to Begin

Dewinterizing a house will require checking every fixture before you even begin to turn on the water. Go around to every fixture and make sure that the flex lines are connected. Check the sinks, toilets, icemaker, dishwasher, water heater, and whatever else you might have in the house that is connected to the water supply. Connect anything that was disconnected before turning on the water.

Go around and turn off the shut-off valves on anything with a dedicated valve like sinks, toilets, and the dishwasher line. If you do this you can slowly go around and test each fixture individually. This can give you more time and decrease the mess that can occur in case you find multiple leaks. If it is an older house and you do not think the shut-off valves will work, or they will leak if you turn them on and off then you might skip this step. Skipping this means you will have to be extra careful to check for leaks before anything floods. You can also turn off the hot water heater that way you can just test the cold water sides before turning on the hot water side.

Turning on the Water

Having extra people will help when turning on the water so that you can spot leaks quickly. Turn the water on slowly at the main water supply. Let the water in a tub run if you can. Turn the water on to each fixture and let it run for a few minutes. It is safer to do this one fixture at a time. Once the air is out of each line the leaks, if any, may begin to show up so keep coming back to check.

Note: If you have pressure balanced shower valves you will have to turn on the shut-off valve above the water heater to get water out of the valve.

Flush the Toilets

Toilets can leak from the seals between the tank and the bowl. Test them by flushing each toilet several times. Keep an eye out for water leaking or pooling at the base of the toilet. Check the inside of each toilet tank and make sure it fills properly and shut off completely.

Exterior Faucets

Freeze-proof faucets can leak after dewinterizing as well. Go around and try every exterior spigot to make sure that a fair amount of water is coming out and that they are working well. Low pressure here may mean there is a split in the shaft causing a leak. To be sure these are not leaking you may need to go under the house if it is on a raised floor.

Keep Checking

Run plenty of water at each fixture and check every drain. Take your time by running water everywhere and double checking that everything is ok. Not all problems are visible right away so keep checking back. If you can check under the house do a crawl and make sure nothing is leaking under there. Have water pipes in the attic? Then check up in the attic and make sure you do not see any water leaking. Never rush when dewinterizing a house.