Snow-covered winter weather offers fun activities like sledding down the neighborhood hill or snowball fights in the back yard. That being said, winter weather can be difficult on your home. Severely cold conditions can encourage the water lines in your home to freeze and burst, which could lead to serious water damage and long-lasting negative effects.

When your pipes are covered in ice, you should contact a plumber in to handle the problem. However, there’s several tasks you can try to keep this from happening – and even minor prevention can go a long way.

What Pipes Are at a Higher Chance of Freezing

The pipes at the highest 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 beneath a modular home. Water lines that are not correctly insulated are at the biggest risk.

How to Stop Pipes from Freezing in Your Home

Sufficiently insulating uncovered water lines is a great first step to keeping your pipes ice free. You’ll often locate most of these materials from a local plumbing company, and may also already have some inside your home.

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

If you do decide to insulate the pipes yourself, good insulation materials for pipes are:

  • Wraps or roll insulation: Lots of plumbers, hardware stores and big box retailers offer insulation – typically fiberglass, foam wraps or pipe sleeves – that you can use to cover or fit around your pipes. They are supplied in various lengths and sizes to suit 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 buy insulation in time, wrap uninsulated pipes in this.
  • Towels or rags: If you don't have the chance to install insulation and don’t have any newspaper handy, wrapping notably vulnerable pipes with towels or clean rags as a last-ditch effort could be just enough to keep the cold air away from the pipes.

One other preventative step you can take to keep pipes from freezing in your home is to fill any cracks that may permit cold air into your home. Pay close attention to window frames, which can let in surprisingly strong 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 rooms of your home with plumbing will allow more warm air from the rest of the room to get to the pipes.
  • Letting water drip. Letting water flow by letting your faucets trickle even a small amount can help prevent frozen pipes.
  • Open interior doors. By opening doors for rooms or hallways, your home can be heated more equally. This is especially important if there's a room that is generally colder or hotter than the rest of the home.
  • Close the garage door. The exception to the open doors tip is the garage door, which you should keep shut – namely if your water lines can be found near or under the garage.
  • Keep the heat flowing. Experts encourage setting the thermostat at a persistent 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 Empty Home

When you’re at home, it’s easier to know when something goes wrong. But what extra steps can you attempt to prevent pipes from freezing in an unused home or vacation home when the consequences from a frozen pipe may not be discovered for some time?

As with the main residence, insulating any exposed water lines, opening interior doors inside the home and winterizing the vacant home are the basic steps to attempt first.

Extra Steps to Stop 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 adjust the thermostat down colder than you would if you were there. As with a primary home, experts recommend keeping the temperature at no colder than 55 degrees.
  2. Shut water off and drain the lines. If you’re going to be gone for a long time or are winterizing a seasonal cabin or cottage, turning the water off to the house and draining the water out of the water lines is an easy way to keep pipes from freezing and bursting open. Don’t forget to flush 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 plumbing. If you are not sure of how to clear out the water from the pipes, or don’t feel secure doing it yourself, a plumber in will be glad to step in.