The snowy winter weather offers a fun day sledding down a nearby hill or snowball fights in the neighbor's yard. However, winter weather can be tough on your home. Severely cold conditions can cause the water lines in your home to freeze and burst, which can cause significant water damage and lasting negative effects.

When your pipes are frozen solid, you might need to hire a plumber in to handle the problem. That being said, there’s several tasks you can perform on your own 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 largest risk of freezing are exposed water lines. Frequent locations for exposed pipes are within attic crawlspaces, near exterior walls, in the basement or even running under a modular home. Water lines that are not appropriately insulated are at the greatest risk.

How to Prevent Pipes from Becoming Frozen in Your Home

Thoroughly insulating uncovered water lines is a great first step to keeping your pipes safe. You’ll generally locate many of these materials from a local plumbing company, and could also already have some inside your home.

Be mindful not to wrap other flammable insulation materials where they might light on fire. If you don’t feel confident insulating the pipes by yourself, contact your local plumbing services professional in to handle the job.

If you do decide to insulate the pipes by yourself, common insulation materials for pipes consist of:

  • Wraps or roll insulation: Many plumbers, hardware stores and large retailers offer insulation – typically fiberglass, foam wraps or pipe sleeves – that you can wrap or fit around your pipes. They are supplied in various lengths and sizes to suit the needs of your home.
  • Newspaper: To a decent 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, consider covering uninsulated pipes in this.
  • Towels or rags: If you miss the opportunity to buy insulation and don’t have any newspaper close by, wrapping particularly 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 fill any cracks that can permit cold air inside your home. Pay close attention to window frames, which can allow in surprisingly intense drafts. Not only will this help to keep 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 that have pipes will allow 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 trickle even just a bit can help thwart frozen pipes.
  • Open interior doors. By opening doors in rooms or hallways, your home can be heated more equally. This is especially 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 – namely if your water lines run through the garage.
  • Keep the heat steady. Experts encourage setting the thermostat at a uniform temperature and leaving it in place, rather than allowing 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 at home, it’s easy to realize when something breaks down. But what added steps can you take to prevent pipes from freezing in an unused home or vacation home when the consequences from a frozen pipe can remain unnoticed 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 try at first.

Extra Steps to Prevent Pipes from Freezing in a Vacant 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 colder than you would if you were there. As with a primary home, experts suggest keeping the temperature at no colder 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 rustic cabin or cottage, switching the water off to the house and emptying the water out of the water lines is an easy way to prevent pipes from freezing and bursting open. Try not to forget to clear the water out of all appliances, such as the hot water heater, and the toilets. Make sure you get 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 performing it yourself, a plumber in will be delighted to assist.