Lots of snow and winter weather offers things like sledding down the neighborhood 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 lead to serious water damage and lasting negative effects.

When your pipes are frozen solid, you might need to contact a plumber in to fix them. That being said, there’s multiple things you can perform on your own to prevent 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 largest risk of freezing are uncovered water lines. Frequent locations for exposed pipes are inside attic crawlspaces, near exterior walls, in the basement or even running under a modular home. Water lines that are not correctly insulated are at the biggest risk.

How to Prevent Pipes from Freezing Over in Your Home

Properly insulating exposed water lines is a solid first step to keeping your pipes ice free. You’ll generally find most of these materials from the local plumbing company, and may also already have some inside your home.

Be careful not to wrap up other flammable insulation materials where they might light on fire. If you don’t feel comfortable insulating the pipes by yourself, contact your local plumbing services professional in to handle the job.

If you do choose to insulate the pipes by yourself, good insulation materials for pipes are:

  • Wraps or roll insulation: Lots of plumbers, hardware stores and large retailers offer insulation – typically fiberglass, foam wraps or pipe sleeves – that you can wrap or fit around your pipes. They are sold in differing lengths and sizes to fit the needs of your home.
  • Newspaper: To some degree, newspaper can be used as insulation. If the weather is getting colder and you aren’t able to buy insulation in time, wrap uninsulated pipes in this.
  • Towels or rags: If you aren’t able to install insulation and don’t have any newspaper handy, wrapping notably vulnerable pipes with towels or clean rags as a final effort could be just enough to keep the cold air off the pipes.

One other preventative step you can attempt to keep pipes from becoming frozen is to fill any cracks that may permit cold air inside your home. Pay close attention to window frames, which can draw in surprisingly powerful drafts. Not only will this help to stop 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 beneath the sinks and other rooms of your home that have pipes will enable more warm air from the rest of the room to flow near the pipes.
  • Letting water drip. Letting water flow by letting your faucets move 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 particularly important if you struggle with a room that is frequently colder or hotter than the remainder of your home.
  • Close the garage door. The exception to the open doors advice is the garage door, which you should keep shut – particularly if your water lines can be found near or under the garage.
  • Keep the heat steady. Experts encourage setting the thermostat at a constant temperature and leaving it there, rather than letting it get colder at night. Set it no cooler than 55 degrees.

How to Prevent Pipes from Freezing in a Vacant Home

When you’re at home, it’s not difficult to realize when something isn't right. But what added steps can you attempt to keep pipes from freezing in a vacant home or vacation home when the damage from a frozen pipe can remain unnoticed for days or even weeks?

As with the main residence, insulating any exposed water lines, opening interior doors inside the home and winterizing the vacant home are the best steps to attempt first.

Other Steps to Stop Pipes from Freezing in a Vacant 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 switch the thermostat down lower than you would if you were there. As with a primary residence, experts encourage keeping the temperature at no cooler than 55 degrees.
  2. Shut water off and drain the lines. If you’re going to be away for an extended period of time or are winterizing a vacation cabin or cottage, turning the water off to the house and clearing the water out of the water lines is one way to stop pipes from freezing and bursting open. Try not to forget to clear the water out of your appliances, including the hot water heater, or the toilets. Make sure you clear out all the water from the system. If you’re unsure of how to clear out the water from the pipes, or don’t feel secure performing it yourself, a plumber in will be glad to assist.