Snow-covered winter weather offers a fun day sledding down the highest hill or snowball fights in the back yard. At the same time, 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 may cause serious water damage and long-lasting negative effects.

Once your pipes are frozen solid, you may want to hire a plumber in to resolve the issue. That being said, there’s a lot you can do to prevent this from happening – and even just a bit of prevention can go a long way.

What Pipes Are at More Risk of Freezing

The pipes at the largest risk of freezing are exposed water lines. Prevalent locations for uninsulated pipes are within attic crawlspaces, near exterior walls, in the basement or even running underneath a modular home. Water lines that are not correctly insulated are at the greatest risk.

How to Keep Pipes from Freezing in Your Home

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

Try not to wrap other flammable insulation materials where they might be caught on fire. If you don’t feel confident insulating the pipes yourself, call your local plumbing services professional in to get the job done right.

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

  • Wraps or roll insulation: Most plumbers, hardware stores and large retailers sell insulation – typically fiberglass, foam wraps or pipe sleeves – that you can wrap or fit around your pipes. They are sold in numerous lengths and sizes to satisfy the needs of your home.
  • Newspaper: In a pinch, newspaper can be used as an insulator. If the weather is going to get cold and you aren’t able to buy insulation soon enough, try wrapping uninsulated pipes in this.
  • Towels or rags: If you aren’t able to install insulation and don’t have any newspaper close by, wrapping particularly vulnerable pipes with towels or clean rags as a final effort can be just enough to keep the cold air away from the pipes.

Another preventative step you can attempt to stop pipes from freezing in your home is to seal up any cracks that could allow cold air inside your home. Focus on the window frames, which can draw in surprisingly strong drafts. Not only should 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 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. Keeping the water flowing by letting your faucets move even just a little 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 have a room that is frequently colder or hotter than the rest of the home.
  • Close the garage door. The exception to the open doors tip 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 encourage setting the thermostat at a constant temperature and leaving it alone, rather than allowing it to get cooler at night. Set it no cooler than 55 degrees.

How to Keep Pipes from Freezing in an Unused Home

When you’re at home, it’s easier to realize when something goes wrong. But what extra steps can you try to keep pipes from freezing in an unused home or vacation home when the consequences from a frozen pipe can remain unnoticed for days or even weeks?

As with a 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.

Added Steps to Prevent 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 home, 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 gone for an extended period of time or are winterizing a vacation cabin or cottage, shutting the water off to the house and clearing the water out of the water lines is one way to prevent pipes from freezing and bursting open. Remember to clear the water out of all appliances, such as the hot water heater, and the toilets. See to it that you empty all the water from the pipes. If you are not sure of how to drain the water from the pipes, or don’t feel comfortable performing it on your own, a plumber in will be happy to assist.