Snow-covered winter weather brings fun activities like sledding down a nearby hill or snowball fights in the front yard. However, winter weather can be tough on your home. Extremely cold conditions can encourage the water lines in your plumbing to freeze and burst, which may result in serious water damage and enduring negative effects.

Once your pipes are covered in ice, you might need to contact a plumber in to fix them. Nevertheless, there’s multiple things you can try 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 uninsulated water lines. Common locations for exposed pipes are in attic crawlspaces, near exterior walls, in the basement or even running under a modular home. Water lines that are not appropriately insulated are at the biggest risk.

How to Prevent 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 likely find many of these materials from the local plumbing company, and may also already have some somewhere in your home.

Be careful not to wrap up other flammable insulation materials where they might be caught on fire. If you don’t feel confident insulating the pipes by yourself, call 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 include:

  • Wraps or roll insulation: Many plumbers, hardware stores and national retailers offer insulation – commonly fiberglass, foam wraps or pipe sleeves – that you can wrap or fit around your pipes. They are sold in differing lengths and sizes to fit the needs of your home.
  • Newspaper: To a decent degree, newspaper can be used as an insulator. If the weather is getting colder 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 add insulation and don’t have any newspaper handy, wrapping especially vulnerable pipes with towels or clean rags as a last-ditch effort may be just enough to keep the cold air away from the pipes.

An additional preventative step you can try to prevent pipes from freezing in your home is to fill any cracks that can allow cold air inside your home. Focus on the window frames, which can let in surprisingly intense 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 underneath the sinks and other spaces of your home with pipes will enable more warm air from the rest of the room to reach the pipes.
  • Letting water drip. Keeping the water flowing by letting your faucets move even just a little can help prevent frozen pipes.
  • Open interior doors. By opening doors for rooms or hallways, your home can be heated more evenly. 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 down – especially if your water lines can be found near or under the garage.
  • Keep the heat steady. Experts recommend setting the thermostat at a persistent temperature and leaving it in place, rather than allowing it to get colder at night. Set it no lower than 55 degrees.

How to Keep Pipes from Freezing in an Unused Home

When you’re inside a house, it’s not difficult to recognize when something goes wrong. But what additional steps can you take to prevent pipes from freezing in an unused home or vacation home when the consequences from a frozen pipe might not be discovered for days or even weeks?

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

Alternative Steps to Keep Pipes from Freezing in an Unused Home:

  1. Leave the heat on. Even though you aren't currently using the home, 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 residence, experts recommend keeping the temperature at no cooler than 55 degrees.
  2. Shut water off and drain the lines. If you’re going to be out of the house for a long time or are winterizing a seasonal cabin or cottage, shutting the water off to the house and clearing the water out of the water lines is a good way to stop pipes from freezing and bursting open. Try not to forget to flush the water out of all appliances, including the hot water heater, as well as the toilets. See to it that you clear out all the water from the pipes. If you're uncertain of how to flush the water from the pipes, or don’t feel comfortable doing it on your own, a plumber in will be happy to step in.