Snow-covered winter weather presents a great opportunity for 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 encourage the water lines in your home to freeze and burst, which could result in severe water damage and enduring negative effects.

When your pipes are frozen solid, you might need to contact a plumber in to handle the problem. Nevertheless, there’s several tasks you can do to keep this from happening – and even minor prevention can go a long way.

What Pipes Are at More Risk of Freezing

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

How to Stop Pipes from Freezing Over in Your Home

Thoroughly insulating exposed water lines is a solid first step to keeping your pipes safe. You’ll likely have access to many of these materials from your local plumbing company, and might also already have some someplace in your home.

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

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

  • Wraps or roll insulation: Many plumbers, hardware stores and big box retailers provide insulation – commonly fiberglass, foam wraps or pipe sleeves – that you can 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 as insulation. If the weather is cooling down and you aren’t able to add insulation soon enough, wrap uninsulated pipes in this.
  • Towels or rags: If you miss the opportunity to install insulation and don’t have any newspaper handy, 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.

Another preventative step you can try to prevent pipes from freezing in your home is to seal up any cracks that can allow cold air inside your home. Pay close attention to window frames, which can let in surprisingly powerful drafts. This not only will help to keep your pipes from freezing, but it will have the added 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 areas 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 the water flowing by letting your faucets move even a small amount can help thwart frozen pipes.
  • Open interior doors. By opening doors between rooms or hallways, your home can be heated more equally. This is especially important if you struggle with a room that tends to be colder or hotter than the remainder of your home.
  • Close the garage door. The exception to the open doors advice is the garage door, which you should keep shut – especially 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 there, rather than allowing it to get lower at night. Set it no cooler than 55 degrees.

How to Prevent Pipes from Freezing in an Unused Home

When you’re at home, it’s easy to recognize when something goes wrong. But what added steps can you take to stop pipes from freezing in an unused home or vacation home when the consequences from a frozen pipe may 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 basic steps to attempt first.

Added 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 colder than you would if you were there. As with a primary house, experts encourage keeping the temperature at no cooler 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, shutting 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. Remember to flush the water out of any appliances, such as the hot water heater, or the toilets. See to it that you clear out all the water from the system. If you are not sure of how to clear out the water from the pipes, or don’t feel comfortable handling it without any help, a plumber in will be delighted to help.