Snow-covered winter weather presents a great opportunity for things like sledding down a nearby hill or snowball fights in the back yard. At the same time, winter weather can be hard on your home. Severely cold conditions can cause the water lines in your home to freeze and burst, which can cause severe water damage and lasting negative effects.

When your pipes are frozen, you might need to contact a plumber in to resolve the issue. That being said, there’s a lot you can try to keep this from happening – and even a little prevention can go a long way.

What Pipes Are at Risk of Freezing

The pipes at the largest risk of freezing are uncovered water lines. Common locations for uninsulated pipes are in attic crawlspaces, near exterior walls, in the basement or even running underneath a modular home. Water lines that are not properly insulated are at the highest risk.

How to Stop Pipes from Freezing in Your Home

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

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

If you do prefer to insulate the pipes yourself, good insulation materials for pipes are:

  • Wraps or roll insulation: Most plumbers, hardware stores and large retailers provide insulation – commonly fiberglass, foam wraps or pipe sleeves – that you can use to wrap or fit around your pipes. They are supplied in different lengths and sizes to satisfy the needs of your home.
  • Newspaper: To some degree, newspaper can be used for insulation. If the weather is cooling down and you aren’t able to add insulation before then, consider covering uninsulated pipes in this.
  • Towels or rags: If you don't have the chance to buy insulation and don’t have any newspaper close by, wrapping particularly vulnerable pipes with towels or clean rags as a final effort could be just enough to keep the cold air off the pipes.

One other preventative step you can take to keep pipes from freezing in your home is to fill any cracks that can let cold air in your home. Focus on the window frames, which can allow in surprisingly intense drafts. This not only will help to stop 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 spaces of your home that have pipes will allow 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 a small amount can help avoid frozen pipes.
  • Open interior doors. By opening doors between rooms or hallways, your home can be heated more equally. This is particularly important if you have a room that is generally 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 – particularly if your water lines can be found near or under the garage.
  • Keep the heat steady. Experts suggest setting the thermostat at a stable temperature and leaving it alone, rather than letting it get lower at night. Set it no cooler than 55 degrees.

How to Stop Pipes from Freezing in an Empty Home

When you’re in your own home, it’s easy to know when something goes wrong. But what extra steps can you take to keep pipes from freezing in an unused home or vacation home when the damage from a frozen pipe might not be discovered for days or even weeks?

As with your primary residence, adding insulation to any exposed water lines, opening interior doors inside the home and winterizing the vacant home are the basic steps to take.

Extra Steps to Keep 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 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 away for several weeks or are winterizing a seasonal cabin or cottage, turning the water off to the house and draining the water out of the water lines is one way to keep pipes from freezing and bursting. Try not to forget to drain the water out of your appliances, like the hot water heater, or the toilets. See to it that you clear out all the water from the system. If you're uncertain of how to flush the water from the pipes, or don’t feel confident doing it on your own, a plumber in will be happy to help.