The snowy winter weather presents a great opportunity for fun activities like sledding down the highest hill or snowball fights in the neighbor's yard. However, winter weather can be difficult on your home. Extremely cold conditions can encourage the water lines in your house's plumbing system to freeze and burst, which could cause serious water damage and long-lasting negative effects.

If your pipes are frozen solid, you should hire a plumber in to handle the problem. However, there’s several tasks you can attempt to stop this from happening – and even just a bit of prevention can go a long way.

What Pipes Are at More Risk of Freezing

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

How to Stop Pipes from Freezing Over in Your Home

Sufficiently insulating uncovered water lines is a good first step to keeping your pipes safe. You’ll likely locate lots of these materials from a local plumbing company, and could also already have some somewhere in your home.

Be mindful not to wrap up other flammable insulation materials where they may light on fire. If you don’t feel safe insulating the pipes yourself, get in touch with your local plumbing services professional in to handle the job.

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

  • Wraps or roll insulation: Multiple plumbers, hardware stores and national retailers sell insulation – typically fiberglass, foam wraps or pipe sleeves – that you can use to wrap or fit around your pipes. They are offered in various lengths and sizes to fit the needs of your home.
  • Newspaper: To some degree, 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 aren’t able to buy insulation and don’t have any newspaper close by, 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.

One other preventative step you can try to prevent pipes from freezing in your home is to seal up any cracks that may let cold air in your home. Pay close attention to window frames, which can draw in surprisingly intense 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 permit more warm air from the rest of the room to reach the pipes.
  • Letting water drip. Keeping a flow of water by letting your faucets move even just a bit can help thwart frozen pipes.
  • Open interior doors. By opening doors between rooms or hallways, your home can be heated more consistently. This is especially important if there's a room that is frequently colder or hotter than the remainder of your home.
  • Close the garage door. The exception to the open doors recommendation is the garage door, which you should keep down – particularly if your water lines can be found near or under the garage.
  • Keep the heat flowing. Experts encourage setting the thermostat at a constant temperature and leaving it alone, rather than allowing it to get cooler at night. Set it no lower than 55 degrees.

How to Stop Pipes from Freezing in an Empty Home

When you’re at home, it’s not difficult to realize when something isn't right. But what additional steps can you take to stop pipes from freezing in an unused home or vacation home when the damages from a frozen pipe might not be discovered for days or even weeks?

As with a primary residence, adding insulation to any exposed water lines, opening interior doors throughout the home and winterizing the vacant home are the basic steps to attempt first.

Other Steps to Prevent 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 turn the thermostat down colder than you would if you were there. As with a primary house, 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 away 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 prevent pipes from freezing and breaking. Try not to forget to drain the water out of all appliances, like the hot water heater, as well as the toilets. Confirm you get all the water from the system. If you’re unsure of how to flush the water from the pipes, or don’t feel confident handling it yourself, a plumber in will be delighted to assist.