Snow-covered winter weather brings things like sledding down a nearby hill or snowball fights in the front yard. That being said, winter weather can be difficult on your home. Severely cold conditions can encourage the water lines in your house's plumbing system to freeze and burst, which can lead to severe water damage and long-lasting negative effects.

Once your pipes are covered in ice, you may want to call a plumber in to fix them. Nevertheless, there’s multiple things you can try to prevent this from happening – and even a little prevention can go a long way.

What Pipes Are at Risk of Freezing

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

How to Stop Pipes from Becoming Frozen in Your Home

Thoroughly insulating exposed water lines is a solid first step to keeping your pipes free of ice. You’ll generally locate most of these materials from a local plumbing company, and may also already have some someplace in your home.

Be careful not to wrap other flammable insulation materials where they may catch fire. If you don’t feel safe insulating the pipes on your own, 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 consist of:

  • Wraps or roll insulation: Multiple 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 supplied 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 before then, wrap uninsulated pipes in this.
  • Towels or rags: If you aren’t able to install insulation and don’t have any newspaper handy, wrapping notably vulnerable pipes with towels or clean rags as a final effort could be just enough to keep the cold air away from the pipes.

One other preventative step you can attempt to prevent pipes from becoming frozen is to seal any cracks that could permit cold air inside your home. Focus on the window frames, which can let in surprisingly intense drafts. Not only should this help to stop 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 areas of your home with pipes will allow more warm air from the rest of the room to reach the pipes.
  • Letting water drip. Keeping the water flowing by letting your faucets drip even just a little can help avoid frozen pipes.
  • Open interior doors. By opening doors for rooms or hallways, your home can be heated more consistently. This is particularly important if there's a room that tends to be colder or hotter than the rest of the home.
  • Close the garage door. The exception to the open doors advice 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 flowing. Experts suggest setting the thermostat at a persistent temperature and leaving it alone, rather than letting it get cooler at night. Set it no colder than 55 degrees.

How to Prevent Pipes from Freezing in an Empty Home

When you’re inside a house, it’s not difficult to realize when something isn't right. But what added steps can you try to prevent pipes from freezing in an empty home or vacation home when the damage from a frozen pipe may not be discovered for some time?

As with your primary residence, insulating any exposed water lines, opening interior doors in the home and winterizing the vacant home are the best steps to take.

Alternative 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 lower than you would if you were there. As with a primary home, 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 out of the house for a long time or are winterizing a vacation cabin or cottage, switching 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 bursting open. Don’t forget to clear the water out of any appliances, like the hot water heater, as well as the toilets. See to it that you clear out all the water from the pipes. If you are not sure of how to flush the water from the pipes, or don’t feel secure doing it yourself, a plumber in will be happy to help.