Snow-covered winter weather presents a great opportunity for a fun day sledding down a nearby hill or snowball fights in the back yard. At the same time, winter weather can be tough on your home. Severely cold conditions can cause the water lines in your home to freeze and burst, which can lead to serious water damage and long-lasting negative effects.

Once your pipes are frozen solid, you might need to hire a plumber in to handle the problem. That being said, there’s several tasks you can do to stop this from happening – and even just a bit of prevention can go a long way.

What Pipes Are at Risk of Freezing

The pipes at the highest risk of freezing are uncovered water lines. Prevalent locations for uncovered pipes are in attic crawlspaces, near exterior walls, in the basement or even running under a modular home. Water lines that are not appropriately insulated are at the biggest risk.

How to Prevent Pipes from Freezing in Your Home

Properly insulating uncovered water lines is a good first step to keeping your pipes ice free. You’ll likely find most of these materials from a local plumbing company, and could also already have some inside your home.

Be careful not to wrap up other flammable insulation materials where they might catch fire. If you don’t feel comfortable insulating the pipes on your own, get in touch with your local plumbing services professional in to do the job.

If you do choose to insulate the pipes yourself, popular insulation materials for pipes consist of:

  • Wraps or roll insulation: Most plumbers, hardware stores and large retailers provide insulation – commonly fiberglass, foam wraps or pipe sleeves – that you can use to cover or fit around your pipes. They are sold in various lengths and sizes to satisfy the needs of your home.
  • Newspaper: To a decent degree, newspaper can be used as insulation. If the weather is cooling down and you aren’t able to buy insulation in time, consider covering uninsulated pipes in this.
  • Towels or rags: If you don't have the chance to add insulation and don’t have any newspaper handy, wrapping particularly vulnerable pipes with towels or clean rags as a last-ditch effort can be just enough to keep the cold air away from the pipes.

One other preventative step you can take to prevent pipes from becoming frozen is to fill any cracks that could allow cold air into your home. Focus on the window frames, which can allow in surprisingly strong drafts. Not only should this help to keep your pipes from freezing, but it will have the extra benefit of making your home more energy efficient.

Five More Ways to Keep Your Pipes from Freezing:

  • Open the cabinet doors. Opening the cabinet doors under the sinks and other areas of your home with pipes will permit more warm air from the rest of the room to flow near the pipes.
  • Letting water drip. Letting water flow by letting your faucets trickle even just a bit can help avoid frozen pipes.
  • Open interior doors. By opening doors in rooms or hallways, your home can be heated more equally. This is especially important if you have a room that tends to be colder or hotter than the rest of the home.
  • Close the garage door. The exception to the open doors recommendation is the garage door, which you should keep down – namely if your water lines can be found near or under the garage.
  • Keep the heat steady. Experts recommend setting the thermostat at a constant temperature and leaving it in place, rather than letting it get colder at night. Set it no cooler than 55 degrees.

How to Prevent Pipes from Freezing in an Unused Home

When you’re inside a house, it’s easy to recognize when something breaks down. But what extra steps can you take to keep pipes from freezing in an unused home or vacation home when the consequences from a frozen pipe can remain unnoticed for a while?

As with your primary residence, insulating any exposed water lines, opening interior doors throughout the home and winterizing the vacant home are the basic steps to try at first.

Other Steps to Prevent Pipes from Freezing in an Empty Home:

  1. Leave the heat on. Even though you aren’t going to be there, it’s best to keep the heat on – even if you switch the thermostat down cooler than you would if you were there. As with a primary residence, experts encourage keeping the temperature at no lower than 55 degrees.
  2. Shut water off and drain the lines. If you’re going to be away for a long time or are winterizing a seasonal cabin or cottage, turning the water off to the house and emptying the water out of the water lines is a good way to stop pipes from freezing and bursting open. Remember to flush the water out of any appliances, including the hot water heater, as well as the toilets. Make sure you get all the water from the pipes. If you're uncertain of how to drain the water from the pipes, or don’t feel confident handling it yourself, a plumber in will be happy to step in.