Snow-covered winter weather brings fun activities like sledding down a nearby hill or snowball fights in the neighbor's yard. That being said, 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 may lead to serious water damage and lasting negative effects.

If your pipes are frozen, you may want to contact a plumber in to handle the problem. However, there’s a lot you can attempt to prevent this from happening – and even minor prevention can go a long way.

What Pipes Are at More Risk of Freezing

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

How to Stop Pipes from Becoming Frozen in Your Home

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

Be careful not to wrap other flammable insulation materials where they might catch fire. If you don’t feel safe insulating the pipes by yourself, call your local plumbing services professional in to do the job.

If you do prefer to insulate the pipes on your own, common insulation materials for pipes are:

  • Wraps or roll insulation: Lots of plumbers, hardware stores and big box retailers provide insulation – typically fiberglass, foam wraps or pipe sleeves – that you can wrap or fit around your pipes. They are offered 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 cooling down and you aren’t able to put in more insulation before then, wrap uninsulated pipes in this.
  • Towels or rags: If you miss the opportunity to buy insulation and don’t have any newspaper close by, wrapping especially vulnerable pipes with towels or clean rags as a last-ditch effort could be just enough to keep the cold air from freezing the pipes.

One other preventative step you can attempt to stop pipes from being covered in ice is to seal up any cracks that could permit cold air into your home. Focus on the window frames, which can draw in surprisingly powerful drafts. Not only will this help to keep 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 beneath the sinks and other spaces 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 trickle even just a little can help prevent frozen pipes.
  • Open interior doors. By opening doors in rooms or hallways, your home can be heated more evenly. This is particularly important if there's a room that is frequently colder or hotter than the rest of the home.
  • Close the garage door. The exception to the open doors recommendation is the garage door, which you should keep shut – particularly if your water lines run through the garage.
  • Keep the heat flowing. Experts encourage setting the thermostat at a stable temperature and leaving it alone, rather than permitting it to get cooler at night. Set it no colder than 55 degrees.

How to Stop Pipes from Freezing in a Vacant Home

When you’re inside a house, it’s easier to recognize when something goes wrong. But what added steps can you attempt to prevent pipes from freezing in a vacant home or vacation home when the damage from a frozen pipe can remain unnoticed for a while?

As with the main residence, insulating any exposed water lines, opening interior doors throughout the home and winterizing the vacant home are the basic 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 currently using the home, 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 recommend 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 seasonal cabin or cottage, switching the water off to the house and draining the water out of the water lines is one way to prevent pipes from freezing and breaking. Try not to forget to flush the water out of all appliances, including the hot water heater, as well as the toilets. Confirm you get all the water from the system. If you're uncertain of how to flush the water from the pipes, or don’t feel comfortable performing it on your own, a plumber in will be delighted to step in.