Snow-covered winter weather brings things like sledding down a nearby hill or snowball fights in the neighbor's yard. However, winter weather can be hard on your home. Excessively cold conditions can encourage the water lines in your home to freeze and burst, which can result in significant water damage and lasting negative effects.

When your pipes are frozen, you should call a plumber in to handle the problem. However, there’s several tasks you can attempt to prevent this from happening – and even minor prevention can go a long way.

What Pipes Are at a Higher Chance of Freezing

The pipes at the greatest risk of freezing are exposed water lines. Frequent locations for uninsulated 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 greatest risk.

How to Stop Pipes from Freezing Over in Your Home

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

Try not to wrap other flammable insulation materials where they can be caught on fire. If you don’t feel safe insulating the pipes on your own, contact your local plumbing services professional in to do the job.

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

  • Wraps or roll insulation: Many 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 offered in numerous lengths and sizes to suit the needs of your home.
  • Newspaper: In a pinch, newspaper can be used as insulation. If the weather is going to get cold 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 add insulation and don’t have any newspaper to use, wrapping especially vulnerable pipes with towels or clean rags as a final effort may be just enough to keep the cold air from freezing the pipes.

An additional preventative step you can attempt to stop pipes from becoming frozen is to seal up any cracks that may allow cold air inside your home. Pay close attention to window frames, which can draw in surprisingly powerful 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 underneath the sinks and other spaces of your home with plumbing will enable 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 move even just a bit can help avoid frozen pipes.
  • Open interior doors. By opening doors in rooms or hallways, your home can be heated more equally. This is mostly important if there's a room that is generally 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 down – especially if your water lines can be found near or under the garage.
  • Keep the heat steady. Experts suggest setting the thermostat at a constant temperature and leaving it there, rather than permitting it to get lower at night. Set it no colder than 55 degrees.

How to Stop Pipes from Freezing in a Vacant Home

When you’re in your own home, it’s easier to recognize when something goes wrong. But what added steps can you take to keep pipes from freezing in an empty 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, insulating any exposed water lines, opening interior doors throughout the home and winterizing the vacant home are the best steps to attempt first.

Added Steps to Keep Pipes from Freezing in an Empty Home:

  1. Leave the heat on. Even though you aren’t going to be there, 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 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 several weeks or are winterizing a vacation cabin or cottage, turning the water off to the house and clearing the water out of the water lines is one way to stop pipes from freezing and bursting open. Remember to clear the water out of any appliances, such as the hot water heater, and the toilets. Make sure 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 handling it yourself, a plumber in will be delighted to offer support.