Snow-covered winter weather offers a fun day sledding down the highest hill or snowball fights in the front yard. However, winter weather can be tough on your home. Extremely cold conditions can cause the water lines in your plumbing to freeze and burst, which could result in severe water damage and enduring negative effects.

When your pipes are frozen, you may want to contact a plumber in to handle the problem. That being said, there’s several tasks you can do to stop this from happening – and even a little prevention can go a long way.

What Pipes Are at a Higher Chance of Freezing

The pipes at the largest risk of freezing are uncovered water lines. Common locations for uncovered pipes are within attic crawlspaces, near exterior walls, in the basement or even running underneath a modular home. Water lines that are not appropriately insulated are at the highest 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 may also already have some someplace in your home.

Be mindful not to wrap other flammable insulation materials where they may catch fire. If you don’t feel confident insulating the pipes by yourself, contact your local plumbing services professional in to handle the job.

If you do prefer to insulate the pipes by yourself, common insulation materials for pipes consist of:

  • Wraps or roll insulation: Lots of plumbers, hardware stores and large retailers sell insulation – typically fiberglass, foam wraps or pipe sleeves – that you can use to cover or fit around your pipes. They are sold in numerous lengths and sizes to fit the needs of your home.
  • Newspaper: In a pinch, newspaper can be used for insulation. If the weather is going to get cold and you aren’t able to put in more insulation before then, try wrapping uninsulated pipes in this.
  • Towels or rags: If you don't have the chance to buy insulation and don’t have any newspaper close by, wrapping notably vulnerable pipes with towels or clean rags as a last-ditch effort may be just enough to keep the cold air off the pipes.

One other preventative step you can take to prevent pipes from freezing in your home is to fill any cracks that can allow cold air into your home. Keep an eye on the window frames, which can draw in surprisingly intense drafts. Not only should this help to prevent your pipes from freezing, but it will have the added 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 rooms of your home with plumbing will enable more warm air from the rest of the room to flow near the pipes.
  • Letting water drip. Keeping a flow of water by letting your faucets trickle even just a bit can help avoid frozen pipes.
  • Open interior doors. By opening doors between rooms or hallways, your home can be heated more consistently. This is mostly important if you struggle with a room that is generally colder or hotter than the remainder of your home.
  • Close the garage door. The exception to the open doors recommendation is the garage door, which you should keep down – especially if your water lines are installed under the garage.
  • Keep the heat consistent. Experts encourage setting the thermostat at a constant temperature and leaving it alone, rather than allowing it to get cooler at night. Set it no colder than 55 degrees.

How to Stop Pipes from Freezing in an Empty Home

When you’re in your own home, it’s easy to recognize when something isn't right. But what additional steps can you take to stop pipes from freezing in an unused home or vacation home when the damage from a frozen pipe can remain unnoticed for some time?

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

Alternative Steps to Prevent Pipes from Freezing in an Unused Home:

  1. Leave the heat on. Even though you aren’t going to be there, it’s best to leave the heat on – even if you adjust the thermostat down colder than you would if you were there. As with a primary residence, experts recommend keeping the temperature at no cooler than 55 degrees.
  2. Shut water off and drain the lines. If you’re going to be gone for a long time or are winterizing a seasonal cabin or cottage, turning the water off to the house and draining the water out of the water lines is one way to prevent pipes from freezing and bursting. Try not to forget to drain the water out of any appliances, like the hot water heater, or the toilets. Confirm you get all the water from the plumbing. If you are not sure of how to drain the water from the pipes, or don’t feel comfortable handling it yourself, a plumber in will be happy to assist.