Snow-covered winter weather offers fun activities like sledding down the highest hill or snowball fights in the neighbor's yard. At the same time, winter weather can be tough on your home. Extremely cold conditions can cause the water lines in your home to freeze and burst, which may cause significant water damage and enduring negative effects.

Once your pipes are frozen, you should hire a plumber in to handle the problem. Nevertheless, there’s several tasks you can try to stop this from happening – and even minor prevention can go a long way.

What Pipes Are at More Risk of Freezing

The pipes at the greatest risk of freezing are exposed water lines. Common 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 Stop Pipes from Freezing in Your Home

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

Try not to cover other flammable insulation materials where they may catch 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 choose to insulate the pipes yourself, common insulation materials for pipes consist of:

  • Wraps or roll insulation: Multiple plumbers, hardware stores and national retailers sell 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: In a pinch, newspaper can be used for insulation. If the weather is getting colder and you aren’t able to add insulation in time, try wrapping uninsulated pipes in this.
  • Towels or rags: If you miss the opportunity to buy 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 from freezing the pipes.

Another preventative step you can take to stop pipes from being covered in ice is to fill any cracks that may allow cold air inside your home. Pay close attention to window frames, which can let in surprisingly strong drafts. This not only will help to prevent 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 beneath the sinks and other rooms of your home with pipes will enable 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 trickle even just a bit can help prevent frozen pipes.
  • Open interior doors. By opening doors in rooms or hallways, your home can be heated more equally. This is especially important if you have 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 shut – particularly if your water lines are installed under the garage.
  • Keep the heat consistent. Experts recommend setting the thermostat at a stable temperature and leaving it alone, rather than letting it get colder at night. Set it no lower than 55 degrees.

How to Prevent Pipes from Freezing in an Empty Home

When you’re inside a house, it’s not difficult to recognize when something goes wrong. But what added steps can you try to keep pipes from freezing in an unused home or vacation home when the damages from a frozen pipe may not be discovered for some time?

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

Alternative 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 turn the thermostat down cooler than you would if you were there. As with a primary house, experts encourage keeping the temperature at no cooler 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, switching 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. Remember to drain the water out of any appliances, like the hot water heater, and the toilets. See to it that 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 comfortable doing it without any help, a plumber in will be glad to assist.