Lots of snow and winter weather presents a great opportunity for fun activities like sledding down a nearby hill or snowball fights in the front yard. At the same time, winter weather can be hard on your home. Excessively cold conditions can encourage the water lines in your house's plumbing system to freeze and burst, which may cause significant water damage and long-lasting negative effects.

When your pipes are frozen solid, you may want to hire a plumber in to handle the problem. That being said, there’s a lot you can perform on your own to keep this from happening – and even just a bit of prevention can go a long way.

What Pipes Are at More Risk of Freezing

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

How to Stop Pipes from Freezing in Your Home

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

Try not to wrap other flammable insulation materials where they may catch fire. If you don’t feel comfortable insulating the pipes yourself, call your local plumbing services professional in to do the job.

If you do choose to insulate the pipes on your own, common insulation materials for pipes include:

  • Wraps or roll insulation: Most plumbers, hardware stores and national retailers offer insulation – typically fiberglass, foam wraps or pipe sleeves – that you can use to cover or fit around your pipes. They are sold in differing lengths and sizes to fit the needs of your home.
  • Newspaper: To some degree, newspaper can be used as an insulator. If the weather is getting colder and you aren’t able to put in more insulation soon enough, consider covering uninsulated pipes in this.
  • Towels or rags: If you aren’t able to install insulation and don’t have any newspaper handy, 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.

An additional preventative step you can attempt to stop pipes from being covered in ice is to seal any cracks that could allow cold air in your home. Pay close attention to window frames, which can allow in surprisingly powerful drafts. This not only will 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 under the sinks and other areas of your home with plumbing will enable more warm air from the rest of the room to get to the pipes.
  • Letting water drip. Keeping the water flowing by letting your faucets drip even a small amount can help avoid frozen pipes.
  • Open interior doors. By opening doors between rooms or hallways, your home can be heated more evenly. This is especially 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 recommendation 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 steady. Experts suggest setting the thermostat at a stable temperature and leaving it there, rather than permitting it to 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 not difficult 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 may not be discovered for some time?

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

Other Steps to Keep Pipes from Freezing in a Vacant Home:

  1. Leave the heat on. Even though you aren’t going to be there, it’s best to keep the heat on – even if you turn the thermostat down cooler 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 out of the house for a long time or are winterizing a seasonal cabin or cottage, turning the water off to the house and clearing the water out of the water lines is one way to prevent pipes from freezing and bursting. Remember to flush the water out of all appliances, such as the hot water heater, or the toilets. Confirm you get all the water from the plumbing. If you're uncertain of how to flush the water from the pipes, or don’t feel confident performing it yourself, a plumber in will be glad to step in.