Snow-covered winter weather offers things like sledding down the neighborhood hill or snowball fights in the front yard. At the same time, winter weather can be tough on your home. Extremely cold conditions can cause 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, you might need to hire a plumber in to fix them. Nevertheless, there’s several tasks you can try to keep 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 highest risk of freezing are uncovered water lines. Prevalent locations for uncovered pipes are in 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 Prevent Pipes from Becoming Frozen in Your Home

Properly insulating uncovered water lines is a solid first step to keeping your pipes free of ice. You’ll often find most of these materials from your local plumbing company, and might also already have some somewhere in your home.

Try not to cover other flammable insulation materials where they might be caught 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 choose to insulate the pipes by yourself, common insulation materials for pipes are:

  • Wraps or roll insulation: Many plumbers, hardware stores and large retailers sell insulation – usually fiberglass, foam wraps or pipe sleeves – that you can use to wrap or fit around your pipes. They are supplied in numerous lengths and sizes to fit 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, wrap uninsulated pipes in this.
  • Towels or rags: If you aren’t able to buy insulation and don’t have any newspaper close by, wrapping especially vulnerable pipes with towels or clean rags as a final effort could be just enough to keep the cold air off the pipes.

An additional preventative step you can try to keep pipes from being covered in ice is to seal up any cracks that may allow cold air into your home. Keep an eye on the window frames, which can let in surprisingly intense drafts. Not only should this help to keep your pipes from freezing, but it will have the additional 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 with plumbing will permit more warm air from the rest of the room to get to the pipes.
  • Letting water drip. Letting water flow by letting your faucets drip even a small amount can help avoid frozen pipes.
  • Open interior doors. By opening doors in rooms or hallways, your home can be heated more consistently. 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 shut – namely if your water lines can be found near or under the garage.
  • Keep the heat consistent. Experts recommend setting the thermostat at a uniform temperature and leaving it in place, rather than letting it get colder at night. Set it no cooler than 55 degrees.

How to Prevent Pipes from Freezing in an Empty Home

When you’re at home, it’s easy to realize when something breaks down. But what extra steps can you take to stop pipes from freezing in an empty home or vacation home when the damage from a frozen pipe might not be discovered for a while?

As with your 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 Unused 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 switch the thermostat down cooler than you would if you were there. As with a primary home, experts encourage keeping the temperature at no lower 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 rustic cabin or cottage, shutting the water off to the house and emptying the water out of the water lines is an easy way to stop pipes from freezing and bursting open. Don’t forget to flush the water out of your appliances, including the hot water heater, or the toilets. See to it that you clear out all the water from the pipes. If you're uncertain of how to drain the water from the pipes, or don’t feel comfortable doing it yourself, a plumber in will be glad to offer support.