Snow-covered winter weather brings a fun day sledding down a nearby hill or snowball fights in the neighbor's yard. However, winter weather can be difficult on your home. Severely cold conditions can cause the water lines in your house's plumbing system to freeze and burst, which could lead to serious water damage and long-lasting negative effects.

Once your pipes are frozen, you should hire a plumber in to handle the problem. However, there’s multiple things you can attempt 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 highest 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 under a modular home. Water lines that are not properly insulated are at the greatest risk.

How to Stop Pipes from Freezing Over in Your Home

Properly insulating exposed water lines is a great first step to keeping your pipes ice free. You’ll likely find many of these materials from your local plumbing company, and may 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 comfortable insulating the pipes yourself, get in touch with your local plumbing services professional in to handle the job.

If you do decide to insulate the pipes yourself, common insulation materials for pipes consist of:

  • Wraps or roll insulation: Many plumbers, hardware stores and large retailers sell insulation – typically fiberglass, foam wraps or pipe sleeves – that you can wrap or fit around your pipes. They are sold in differing lengths and sizes to suit the needs of your home.
  • Newspaper: In a pinch, newspaper can be used for insulation. If the weather is cooling down and you aren’t able to add insulation soon enough, try wrapping uninsulated pipes in this.
  • Towels or rags: If you don't have the chance to install insulation and don’t have any newspaper close by, wrapping particularly vulnerable pipes with towels or clean rags as a last-ditch effort can be just enough to keep the cold air away from the pipes.

One other preventative step you can try to prevent pipes from freezing in your home is to seal up any cracks that can allow cold air in your home. Keep an eye on the window frames, which can allow in surprisingly strong drafts. Not only will this help to prevent 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 beneath the sinks and other spaces of your home that have pipes will enable more warm air from the rest of the room to reach the pipes.
  • Letting water drip. Letting water flow by letting your faucets trickle even just a bit can help thwart frozen pipes.
  • Open interior doors. By opening doors in rooms or hallways, your home can be heated more equally. This is particularly important if you struggle with a room that is generally 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 – namely if your water lines are installed under the garage.
  • Keep the heat steady. Experts encourage setting the thermostat at a stable temperature and leaving it there, rather than permitting it to get cooler at night. Set it no lower than 55 degrees.

How to Stop Pipes from Freezing in an Unused 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 prevent pipes from freezing in a vacant home or vacation home when the damage from a frozen pipe might not be discovered for some time?

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 take.

Extra Steps to Prevent Pipes from Freezing in a Vacant 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 colder than you would if you were there. As with a primary residence, experts encourage keeping the temperature at no lower 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 vacation cabin or cottage, shutting the water off to the house and draining the water out of the water lines is a good way to prevent pipes from freezing and breaking. Try not to forget to flush the water out of any appliances, such as the hot water heater, as well as the toilets. Confirm you empty all the water from the system. If you are not sure of how to drain the water from the pipes, or don’t feel secure performing it yourself, a plumber in will be delighted to offer support.