Having a utility sink in your garage is very helpful. Utility sinks in a garage can be an excellent place to bath your pets, wash those dirty shoes, do the laundry, and clean all the gardening tools after use. However, one disadvantage of a utility sink in the garage is, the water lines and drains can freeze during the winter. That’s because most garages are unheated and not thermally treated.
I’ve had this problem in the past and had to call a plumber a couple of times to fix it. Moving the sink out of the garage was certainly not an option. So I did some research, and here are five tips I learned that have helped me winterize my garage sink.
To keep your garage sink from freezing,
- Use fiberglass pipe insulation on pipes
- Use heat tapes on water lines and drains
- Install a frost-free faucet
- Use antifreeze when the sink is not in use
- Manually drain the P-trap pipe after every use
I’m going to walk you through how all of these five different options and how they work, as well as how you can apply it to your garage sink. You can choose to apply all of these tips or select the ones which work best for you and your budget. Keep in mind that the more options you use, the better you freeze-proof your sink.
1. Use fiberglass pipe insulation on pipes
I’m sure you are already familiar with insulation. We insulate our homes to prevent heat or cold from getting into our homes. It’s one of the best ways to separate anything from its environment.
Luckily for us, there is an insulation kit specifically made for pipes, and they are known as fiberglass pipe insulation. Just as the name depicts, these are insulation kits made from fiberglass, and fiberglass is among the most popular insulation materials out there.
Pipe insulation kits come in different thicknesses. The thicker the insulation is, the higher the R-Value. Don’t worry if you don’t know what an R-Value is. It’s just a fancy way of describing how effective the insulation of the material is. In essence, the higher the R-Value, the higher the R-Value, the better the insulation
Wrapping the water pipes and the drain pipes of your garage sink with a fiberglass pipe insulation will prevent it from freezing in the winter. That’s because the insulation will block cold air in the garage from transferring to the pipes and the water inside. It will also keep the water in the pipes in their appropriate temperatures even when the tap is not flowing.
The most popular fiberglass pipe insulation kit you will find is Frost King’s Foil Backed Fiberglass Pipe Wrap (Amazon). It’s 3″ wide and 1″ inch thick and 25 feet long.
This can be installed in minutes as soon as it arrives. To install this, simply wrap the material around the pipes progressively, with the foil facing outside. Make sure there are no gaps in between the wrap. Alternatively, you can overlap the second wrap on the first one and so on. This will help seal any air gaps between them.
Once you fully wrap the pipe, cut the remaining insulation with a utility knife, and then glue the insulation material to the pipe to hold it in place. And then move on to the next pipe, till you cover all of them with insulation.
Keep in mind to wear gloves before you start because the fiberglass material can be itchy.
If you live in a very cold climate, I recommend you wrap the pipes with the insulation twice. This will make the insulation on the pipe thicker and make the pipes more freeze-proof.
2. Use Heat Tapes on Water Lines and Drain
If you live in a cold climate area, you are probably familiar with heat tape. They are widely used with outdoor and exposed pipes. That’s because they are the easiest to freeze during the winter.
What is heat tape? Glad you asked
Heat tapes are electrical devices that are wrapped around pipes to heat it to prevent it from freezing.
Although they are mostly used for outside pipes, since your garage is not heated, chances are it gets as cold as the outside during the winter. So, it’s a good idea to use heat tape to heat your garage sink pipes.
As I mentioned earlier, these are electrical devices, so you need to have a power socket outlet in the garage. I recommend you purchase one electrical extension board for all the heat tapes you’ll be using. Attach it to the wall near your utility sink, and then plug in all the heat tapes.
I highly recommend Radiant Solution’s Premium Water Pipe Heat Tape (Amazon) for various reasons. It has an integrated thermostat that detects the environment’s temperature conditions, or in our case, the garage. It only turns on when the temperature is below 37 degrees and goes off automatically when the garage’s temperature is 50 degrees. This saves you a lot of energy costs.
Secondly, it works very well with any type of pipe — steel, copper, PVC, ABS, or PEX. So, regardless of the type of pipes used for your utility sink, this heat tape will keep it from freezing. There are loads of features about this particular heat tape, but that’s beyond the scope of this article.
To install them on your pipes, wrap it around the pipes, and make sure they are evenly spaced. Ensure not to overlap the heat tapes because that can result in overheating and potentially cause a fire outbreak. You certainly don’t want that to happen.
Plug them in the socket outlet and turn it on. You can leave it on and simply forget about it because they will only activate when the garage’s temperature is low.
This will keep your garage’s utility sink running all year without it freezing.
3. Install a frost-free faucet
If you have a faucet (or spigot) installed outside your home, the chances are that it is frost-free. That helps protect the water in the faucet from freezing and eventually leading to a burst pipe.
But what is a frost-free faucet, and how does it work?
Frost-free (or frost-proof) faucets look like a regular faucet. However, it is connected to a long pipe that extends into your home, where the temperature is warmer. And then, at the end of the pipe is a shutoff valve. This means when you turn off the pipe; the valve shuts off inside your home.
This means the water that stays inside the pipe will be on your home’s warmer side, where the temperature is regulated. The long pipe that connects to the faucet in your garage comes in different lengths. It can extend from 6 to 14 inches. The type you order should depend on how thick your wall is.
Also, all frost-free faucets are installed such that they are slightly tilted downwards. This way, the remaining water in the faucet will drip outside after it is turned off. This means there will be no water left in the faucet to freeze.
If your garage’s utility sink is installed on the wall that the garage shares with your living area, then it’s about time you changed your traditional faucet to a frost-proof faucet.
If you are going for this option, I recommend hiring a professional plumber to fix it for you. That’s because most homeowners who attempt replacing their faucets on their own end up with water leak problems. Professionals are also familiar with the building codes, so they know the right permits to acquire and rules to follow to get this job done.
4. Use antifreeze when the sink is not in use
Antifreeze is very popular among campers, RV, and boat owners. These chemicals reduce the freezing point of water, thereby making it hard to freeze in cold climates.
Perhaps you are already familiar with the antifreeze used for the vehicle’s engine. However, this is not the type of antifreeze I’m talking about. Engine antifreeze is very toxic and can contaminate your water or drainage system.
The antifreeze I’m talking about is used by RV owners in very cold regions to keep their RV kitchen sinks, bathroom sinks, and drainage system from freezing. These options are non-toxic and environmentally friendly.
Why should you use an antifreeze?
Even when you drain your utility sink, there is always a considerable amount of wastewater in the P-trap pipe installed under the sink. In freezing temperatures, the water will get frozen and block the sink’s drain.
Pouring an antifreeze into the sink will change the water’s freezing point, so it doesn’t get frozen by the cold temperatures in your garage. This will keep the sink drains freeze-proof until the next time you use the sink.
Star-Brite Non-Toxic Antifreeze (on Amazon) is one of the more popular options you’ll find out there. It comes packaged with 6 gallons of antifreeze, which is enough to last you for years, depending on how often you use the sink during the winter. It is made of propylene glycol, which is a standard antifreeze chemical for even the coldest climate zones.
5. Manually drain the P-trap after using the sink
An alternative to using an antifreeze is to drain the P-trap manually. There is always water in the P-trap after every use of the sink. To prevent that water from freezing, simply drain the P-trap manually. It is simple to take off and drain the water inside.
To remove the P-trap, simply use a Channellock plier to unscrew the collar connecting the PVC pipe and the tailpiece. Once that’s done, pour the water out of the P-trap and then screw it back in place.
This will be suitable for those who don’t put much dirt or debris in the sink, because over time, that can stink and be gross to take off every time.
As I mentioned earlier in this article, you can stick to one option or combine two or more ways to freeze-proof your garage sink.
For example, you can insulate all of the water and drain pipes with fiberglass pipe insulation material. Alternatively, you can change the faucet into a frost-proof faucet, and then use antifreeze for the drains. Another option is to use heat tapes for the water lines and manually drain the P-trap after every use.
In essence, do what works best for you and your budget. By following these tips, you won’t have any issue with your garage’s utility sink freezing anymore.