Snow-covered winter weather brings fun activities like sledding down the neighborhood hill or snowball fights in the back yard. However, winter weather can be difficult on your home. Excessively cold conditions can encourage the water lines in your house's plumbing system to freeze and burst, which can lead to severe water damage and enduring negative effects.

If your pipes are frozen solid, you might need to contact a plumber in to resolve the issue. Nevertheless, there’s several tasks you can do to keep this from happening – and even minor prevention can go a long way.

What Pipes Are at a Higher Chance of Freezing

The pipes at the greatest risk of freezing are uncovered water lines. Frequent 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 correctly insulated are at the highest risk.

How to Keep Pipes from Becoming Frozen in Your Home

Thoroughly insulating uncovered water lines is a great first step to keeping your pipes free of ice. You’ll generally find lots of these materials from your 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 light on fire. If you don’t feel confident insulating the pipes by yourself, call your local plumbing services professional in to do the job.

If you do prefer to insulate the pipes yourself, common insulation materials for pipes include:

  • Wraps or roll insulation: Lots of plumbers, hardware stores and big box retailers sell insulation – commonly fiberglass, foam wraps or pipe sleeves – that you can use to cover or fit around your pipes. They are offered in differing lengths and sizes to fit the needs of your home.
  • Newspaper: In a pinch, newspaper can be used as insulation. If the weather is going to get cold and you aren’t able to buy insulation soon enough, 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 especially vulnerable pipes with towels or clean rags as a last-ditch effort may be just enough to keep the cold air from freezing the pipes.

One other preventative step you can take to stop pipes from freezing in your home is to seal any cracks that may permit cold air in your home. Keep an eye on the window frames, which can allow in surprisingly powerful drafts. Not only will this help to prevent 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 underneath the sinks and other rooms of your home that have pipes will enable 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 prevent frozen pipes.
  • Open interior doors. By opening doors in rooms or hallways, your home can be heated more evenly. This is mostly important if you struggle with a room that tends to be colder or hotter than other rooms.
  • Close the garage door. The exception to the open doors advice is the garage door, which you should keep down – namely if your water lines run through the garage.
  • Keep the heat consistent. Experts encourage setting the thermostat at a uniform temperature and leaving it alone, rather than letting it get cooler at night. Set it no colder than 55 degrees.

How to Prevent Pipes from Freezing in an Empty Home

When you’re in your own home, it’s not difficult to recognize when something breaks down. But what added steps can you try to keep pipes from freezing in an empty home or vacation home when the damages from a frozen pipe might not be discovered for days or even weeks?

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

Additional Steps to Stop Pipes from Freezing in a Vacant Home:

  1. Leave the heat on. Even though you won't always be home, it’s best to keep the heat on – even if you turn the thermostat down colder than you would if you were there. As with a primary residence, experts suggest 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 an extended period of time 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 stop pipes from freezing and bursting. Remember to flush the water out of any appliances, like the hot water heater, and the toilets. Confirm you get all the water from the plumbing. If you’re unsure of how to clear out the water from the pipes, or don’t feel secure doing it without any help, a plumber in will be delighted to offer support.