Snow-covered winter weather brings things like sledding down the neighborhood hill or snowball fights in the neighbor's yard. However, winter weather can be difficult on your home. Excessively cold conditions can cause 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 frozen solid, you might need to contact a plumber in to resolve the issue. However, there’s several tasks you can try to keep this from happening – and even a little prevention can go a long way.

What Pipes Are at Risk of Freezing

The pipes at the greatest risk of freezing are uncovered water lines. Frequent locations for uncovered pipes are within 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 Keep Pipes from Becoming Frozen in Your Home

Thoroughly insulating uncovered water lines is a solid first step to keeping your pipes safe. You’ll likely have access to lots of these materials from a local plumbing company, and might also already have some inside your home.

Try not to wrap up other flammable insulation materials where they can be caught on fire. If you don’t feel confident insulating the pipes by yourself, call your local plumbing services professional in to get the job done right.

If you do decide to insulate the pipes on your own, good insulation materials for pipes consist of:

  • Wraps or roll insulation: Most plumbers, hardware stores and national retailers sell insulation – typically fiberglass, foam wraps or pipe sleeves – that you can wrap or fit around your pipes. They are offered in numerous lengths and sizes to suit the needs of your home.
  • Newspaper: In a pinch, newspaper can be used as insulation. If the weather is cooling down and you aren’t able to add insulation in time, consider covering uninsulated pipes in this.
  • Towels or rags: If you miss the opportunity to add insulation and don’t have any newspaper close by, wrapping particularly vulnerable pipes with towels or clean rags as a last-ditch effort could be just enough to keep the cold air off the pipes.

Another preventative step you can try to prevent pipes from being covered in ice is to seal up any cracks that may allow cold air inside your home. Keep an eye on the window frames, which can let in surprisingly strong 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 beneath the sinks and other areas of your home with plumbing will enable more warm air from the rest of the room to reach the pipes.
  • Letting water drip. Letting water flow 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 is frequently colder or hotter than other rooms.
  • Close the garage door. The exception to the open doors tip 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 consistent. Experts encourage setting the thermostat at a uniform temperature and leaving it there, rather than permitting it to get lower at night. Set it no colder than 55 degrees.

How to Keep Pipes from Freezing in an Empty Home

When you’re in your own home, it’s easy to recognize when something breaks down. But what extra steps can you take to keep pipes from freezing in an unused home or vacation home when the damages from a frozen pipe may not be discovered for days or even weeks?

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

Added Steps to Prevent 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 cooler than you would if you were there. As with a primary home, experts suggest keeping the temperature at no cooler than 55 degrees.
  2. Shut water off and drain the lines. If you’re going to be away for a long time or are winterizing a rustic cabin or cottage, switching the water off to the house and emptying the water out of the water lines is a good way to keep pipes from freezing and breaking. Don’t forget to drain the water out of your appliances, like the hot water heater, and the toilets. Confirm you empty all the water from the system. If you are not sure of how to drain the water from the pipes, or don’t feel confident doing it on your own, a plumber in will be happy to assist.