The snowy winter weather offers fun activities like sledding down the neighborhood hill or snowball fights in the front yard. That being said, winter weather can be difficult on your home. Severely cold conditions can encourage the water lines in your plumbing to freeze and burst, which could cause severe water damage and lasting negative effects.

If your pipes are frozen solid, you might need to hire a plumber in to resolve the issue. That being said, there’s multiple things you can perform on your own to stop this from happening – and even a little prevention can go a long way.

What Pipes Are at a Higher Chance of Freezing

The pipes at the largest risk of freezing are uncovered water lines. Prevalent locations for exposed pipes are in 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 biggest risk.

How to Prevent Pipes from Becoming Frozen in Your Home

Thoroughly insulating exposed water lines is a good first step to keeping your pipes ice free. You’ll likely locate lots of these materials from the local plumbing company, and could also already have some inside your home.

Be careful not to wrap other flammable insulation materials where they can light on fire. If you don’t feel comfortable insulating the pipes on your own, call your local plumbing services professional in to do the job.

If you do prefer to insulate the pipes by yourself, common insulation materials for pipes include:

  • Wraps or roll insulation: Many plumbers, hardware stores and big box retailers sell insulation – usually fiberglass, foam wraps or pipe sleeves – that you can wrap or fit around your pipes. They are supplied in differing lengths and sizes to satisfy the needs of your home.
  • Newspaper: To some degree, newspaper can be used for insulation. If the weather is getting colder and you aren’t able to put in more insulation soon enough, wrap uninsulated pipes in this.
  • Towels or rags: If you don't have the chance to add insulation and don’t have any newspaper to use, wrapping especially vulnerable pipes with towels or clean rags as a final effort could be just enough to keep the cold air away from the pipes.

An additional preventative step you can try to stop pipes from being covered in ice is to seal up any cracks that can allow cold air inside your home. Keep an eye on the window frames, which can let in surprisingly intense drafts. Not only will this 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 that have pipes will permit more warm air from the rest of the room to get to the pipes.
  • Letting water drip. Letting water flow by letting your faucets drip 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 equally. This is mostly important if you struggle with a room that tends to be 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 – namely if your water lines run through the garage.
  • Keep the heat steady. Experts suggest setting the thermostat at a constant temperature and leaving it in place, rather than letting it get cooler at night. Set it no cooler than 55 degrees.

How to Keep Pipes from Freezing in an Unused Home

When you’re in your own home, it’s not difficult to recognize when something goes wrong. But what added steps can you take to stop pipes from freezing in a vacant home or vacation home when the consequences from a frozen pipe might not be discovered for days or even weeks?

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

Alternative Steps to Keep Pipes from Freezing in an Unused 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 recommend keeping the temperature at no lower than 55 degrees.
  2. Shut water off and drain the lines. If you’re going to be away for an extended period of time or are winterizing a rustic cabin or cottage, turning 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. Try not to forget to flush the water out of your appliances, like the hot water heater, and the toilets. See to it that you empty all the water from the pipes. If you are not sure of how to flush the water from the pipes, or don’t feel secure doing it without any help, a plumber in will be glad to offer support.