Snow-covered winter weather presents a great opportunity for things like sledding down the neighborhood hill or snowball fights in the neighbor's yard. At the same time, winter weather can be tough on your home. Severely cold conditions can encourage the water lines in your house's plumbing system to freeze and burst, which can result in significant water damage and enduring negative effects.

If your pipes are frozen solid, you might need to hire a plumber in to fix them. Nevertheless, there’s several tasks you can attempt to stop this from happening – and even a little prevention can go a long way.

What Pipes Are at Risk of Freezing

The pipes at the greatest risk of freezing are uncovered water lines. Prevalent locations for uninsulated pipes are inside attic crawlspaces, near exterior walls, in the basement or even running beneath a modular home. Water lines that are not appropriately insulated are at the greatest risk.

How to Keep Pipes from Becoming Frozen in Your Home

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

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

If you do choose to insulate the pipes yourself, common insulation materials for pipes are:

  • Wraps or roll insulation: Multiple plumbers, hardware stores and national retailers provide insulation – usually fiberglass, foam wraps or pipe sleeves – that you can use to cover or fit around your pipes. They are sold in various lengths and sizes to fit the needs of your home.
  • Newspaper: To some degree, newspaper can be used for insulation. If the weather is getting colder and you aren’t able to buy insulation before then, try wrapping 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 can be just enough to keep the cold air off the pipes.

One other preventative step you can take to stop pipes from freezing in your home is to seal any cracks that may allow cold air in your home. Pay close attention to window frames, which can let in surprisingly intense 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 underneath the sinks and other rooms of your home with plumbing will permit more warm air from the rest of the room to flow near the pipes.
  • Letting water drip. Keeping a flow of water by letting your faucets drip even just a little can help avoid frozen pipes.
  • Open interior doors. By opening doors between rooms or hallways, your home can be heated more evenly. This is particularly important if you have a room that is frequently colder or hotter than other rooms.
  • 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 are installed under the garage.
  • Keep the heat consistent. Experts suggest setting the thermostat at a stable temperature and leaving it alone, rather than letting it get lower at night. Set it no colder than 55 degrees.

How to Prevent Pipes from Freezing in an Empty Home

When you’re inside a house, it’s easier to know when something breaks down. But what added steps can you take to prevent pipes from freezing in an empty home or vacation home when the damages from a frozen pipe might not be discovered for some time?

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 best steps to take.

Alternative 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 cooler than you would if you were there. As with a primary home, experts suggest keeping the temperature at no lower 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 rustic cabin or cottage, shutting the water off to the house and clearing the water out of the water lines is one way to keep pipes from freezing and bursting open. Try not to forget to drain the water out of all appliances, like the hot water heater, as well as the toilets. Make sure you empty all the water from the plumbing. If you're uncertain of how to flush the water from the pipes, or don’t feel secure performing it without any help, a plumber in will be delighted to help.