The snowy winter weather brings a fun day sledding down the highest hill or snowball fights in the neighbor's yard. However, winter weather can be hard on your home. Severely cold conditions can encourage the water lines in your house's plumbing system to freeze and burst, which can cause severe water damage and enduring negative effects.

Once your pipes are covered in ice, you may want to call a plumber in to resolve the issue. Nevertheless, there’s a lot you can attempt to stop this from happening – and even just a bit of prevention can go a long way.

What Pipes Are at Risk of Freezing

The pipes at the greatest risk of freezing are exposed water lines. Common locations for uncovered pipes are in 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 greatest risk.

How to Prevent Pipes from Becoming Frozen in Your Home

Properly insulating exposed water lines is a great first step to keeping your pipes ice free. You’ll generally locate lots of these materials from the local plumbing company, and might also already have some somewhere in your home.

Be mindful not to wrap up 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 do the job.

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

  • Wraps or roll insulation: Most plumbers, hardware stores and big box retailers provide insulation – usually fiberglass, foam wraps or pipe sleeves – that you can use to wrap or fit around your pipes. They are sold in numerous lengths and sizes to satisfy the needs of your home.
  • Newspaper: In a pinch, newspaper can be used as an insulator. If the weather is going to get cold and you aren’t able to buy insulation in time, wrap uninsulated pipes in this.
  • Towels or rags: If you miss the opportunity to add insulation and don’t have any newspaper to use, wrapping notably vulnerable pipes with towels or clean rags as a final effort can be just enough to keep the cold air off the pipes.

An additional preventative step you can attempt to keep pipes from being covered in ice is to seal any cracks that can allow cold air inside your home. Keep an eye on the window frames, which can draw in surprisingly strong drafts. Not only should this help to stop your pipes from freezing, but it will have the extra 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 with pipes will permit more warm air from the rest of the room to flow near the pipes.
  • Letting water drip. Keeping the water flowing by letting your faucets move even a small amount can help prevent frozen pipes.
  • Open interior doors. By opening doors between rooms or hallways, your home can be heated more evenly. This is particularly important if there's a room that tends to be colder or hotter than the remainder of your home.
  • Close the garage door. The exception to the open doors advice is the garage door, which you should keep closed – particularly if your water lines run through the garage.
  • Keep the heat consistent. Experts suggest setting the thermostat at a stable temperature and leaving it in place, rather than letting it get lower at night. Set it no lower than 55 degrees.

How to Keep Pipes from Freezing in an Unused Home

When you’re at home, it’s easier to know when something goes wrong. But what additional steps can you attempt to keep pipes from freezing in an unused home or vacation home when the damages from a frozen pipe can remain unnoticed for some time?

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 best steps to try at first.

Other Steps to Keep 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 cooler 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 gone for an extended period of time or are winterizing a rustic cabin or cottage, turning 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 all appliances, including the hot water heater, as well as the toilets. See to it that you get all the water from the plumbing. If you’re unsure of how to flush the water from the pipes, or don’t feel confident handling it on your own, a plumber in will be glad to assist.