To winterize or not to winterize: That is the question

by Craig Sears, President and Founder

Originally featured in CAI Magazine – 2018 4th Quarter Edition

Pool season is over, and winter is starting soon.  A common conundrum many boards face is whether or not to winterize their pool bathrooms.

If your bathrooms are part of a larger clubhouse or building that stays heated and used throughout the offseason, there is obviously no need to winterize.  But for those associations whose bathrooms are a free-standing building or part of a bathhouse/pool house combo, the decision may not be as easy.

If you have off-season activities like tennis and neighborhood gatherings who might use the restrooms, you’ll want to keep them open.  However, you’ll also want to take precautions to prevent freeze damage from occurring. The simplest solution is to purchase some space heaters with a safety switch (in case they fall over) and a thermostat on them.  Keep them on a low setting to minimize cost. The bathrooms only need to be warm enough to prevent freezing, not as warm as a house.

If you have exposed freshwater pipes outside the restrooms, electric heated pipe wraps are a great way to protect them.  However, be aware that just like milk at the grocery store, your local hardware store will sell out of pipe wraps and space heaters at the first sign of freezing weather, so it’s best to buy them ahead of time.

The primary risk if you don’t winterize is freeze damage to your freshwater plumbing.

If your residents don’t need access to your pool bathhouse during the off season, the safer bet may be to winterize them.  If you do winterize, mark the restrooms and stalls clearly indicating they are winterized.  Consider locking the restrooms if possible, so they cannot be accessed.  Unfortunately, if residents or contractors can still gain access, they may use the winterized restrooms anyway, which makes an awful mess, and results in an extra clean-up charge.  

Whether you choose to winterize your pool bathhouse or not, don’t forget plumbing that might be on the same freshwater line as the bathrooms but not necessarily obvious, such as outdoor showers, drinking fountains, hose spigots, and pool fill lines. If winterizing, point these out to the service blowing your lines, so they clear the water out.  If not winterizing, these lines should be wrapped with electric heat pipe wrap when it drops below freezing.

The primary risk if you don’t winterize is freeze damage to your freshwater plumbing.  The primary risk if you do winterize is someone using your restrooms when they are winterized. Both are unpleasant and result in additional costs. Each community should assess which protocol is best for them. If you’re not sure you’re adequately covered, ask your favorite CAI member pool service company or plumber.

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