Lots of snow and winter weather brings things like sledding down the highest hill or snowball fights in the back yard. However, winter weather can be tough on your home. Extremely cold conditions can encourage the water lines in your home to freeze and burst, which could cause serious water damage and long-lasting negative effects.

If your pipes are frozen, you might need to call a plumber in to handle the problem. That being said, there’s several tasks you can do to keep this from happening – and even a little prevention can go a long way.

What Pipes Are at More Risk of Freezing

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

How to Keep Pipes from Freezing Over in Your Home

Properly insulating uncovered water lines is a great first step to keeping your pipes free of ice. You’ll likely locate lots of these materials from the local plumbing company, and could also already have some someplace in your home.

Be mindful not to wrap up other flammable insulation materials where they can be caught on fire. If you don’t feel safe insulating the pipes by yourself, contact your local plumbing services professional in to do the job.

If you do decide to insulate the pipes yourself, good insulation materials for pipes consist of:

  • Wraps or roll insulation: Multiple plumbers, hardware stores and large retailers offer insulation – commonly fiberglass, foam wraps or pipe sleeves – that you can wrap or fit around your pipes. They are supplied in different lengths and sizes to suit the needs of your home.
  • Newspaper: In a pinch, newspaper can be used as an insulator. If the weather is getting colder and you aren’t able to add insulation soon enough, wrap uninsulated pipes in this.
  • Towels or rags: If you miss the opportunity to add insulation and don’t have any newspaper close by, wrapping particularly vulnerable pipes with towels or clean rags as a last-ditch effort could be just enough to keep the cold air away from the pipes.

One other preventative step you can take to keep pipes from freezing in your home is to fill any cracks that may permit cold air in your home. Keep an eye on the window frames, which can let in surprisingly powerful drafts. Not only should this help to keep 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 spaces of your home with plumbing will allow more warm air from the rest of the room to get to 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 for rooms or hallways, your home can be heated more equally. This is mostly important if there's a room that tends to be colder or hotter than other rooms.
  • Close the garage door. The exception to the open doors recommendation is the garage door, which you should keep shut – namely if your water lines can be found near or under the garage.
  • Keep the heat flowing. Experts suggest setting the thermostat at a uniform temperature and leaving it there, rather than allowing it to get colder at night. Set it no cooler than 55 degrees.

How to Prevent Pipes from Freezing in an Unused Home

When you’re in your own home, it’s not difficult to know when something isn't right. But what added steps can you attempt to stop pipes from freezing in an unused home or vacation home when the damages from a frozen pipe can remain unnoticed for some time?

As with a primary residence, placing extra insulation around any exposed water lines, opening interior doors throughout the home and winterizing the vacant home are the basic steps to attempt first.

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

  1. Leave the heat on. Even though you aren't currently using the home, 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 house, experts encourage keeping the temperature at no colder than 55 degrees.
  2. Shut water off and drain the lines. If you’re going to be away for several weeks or are winterizing a rustic cabin or cottage, shutting the water off to the house and emptying the water out of the water lines is a good way to keep pipes from freezing and breaking. Try not to forget to flush the water out of any appliances, including the hot water heater, and the toilets. Confirm you clear out all the water from the system. If you are not sure of how to clear out the water from the pipes, or don’t feel secure performing it on your own, a plumber in will be delighted to offer support.