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

Once your pipes are frozen, you may want to hire a plumber in to fix them. However, there’s multiple things you can attempt to keep this from happening – and even just a bit of 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. Frequent locations for uncovered pipes are in 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 Stop Pipes from Freezing in Your Home

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

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

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

  • Wraps or roll insulation: Lots of plumbers, hardware stores and big box retailers offer insulation – commonly fiberglass, foam wraps or pipe sleeves – that you can use to wrap or fit around your pipes. They are supplied in different lengths and sizes to fit 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 add insulation soon enough, consider covering uninsulated pipes in this.
  • Towels or rags: If you don't have the chance to install insulation and don’t have any newspaper handy, wrapping particularly vulnerable pipes with towels or clean rags as a last-ditch effort can be just enough to keep the cold air away from the pipes.

Another preventative step you can try to stop pipes from freezing in your home is to seal up any cracks that could allow cold air in your home. Focus on the window frames, which can draw in surprisingly powerful drafts. Not only should this help to stop 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 plumbing 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 avoid frozen pipes.
  • Open interior doors. By opening doors between 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 other rooms.
  • Close the garage door. The exception to the open doors advice is the garage door, which you should keep shut – especially if your water lines can be found near or under the garage.
  • Keep the heat consistent. Experts recommend setting the thermostat at a constant temperature and leaving it in place, rather than allowing it to get cooler at night. Set it no colder than 55 degrees.

How to Stop Pipes from Freezing in an Empty Home

When you’re inside a house, it’s easier to recognize when something isn't right. But what extra steps can you try to stop pipes from freezing in an unused home or vacation home when the consequences from a frozen pipe can remain unnoticed for days or even weeks?

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

Additional Steps to Prevent 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 adjust the thermostat down cooler than you would if you were there. As with a primary home, experts encourage keeping the temperature at no lower than 55 degrees.
  2. Shut water off and drain the lines. If you’re going to be out of the house for an extended period of time or are winterizing a vacation cabin or cottage, turning the water off to the house and clearing the water out of the water lines is a good way to prevent pipes from freezing and bursting open. Don’t forget to drain the water out of any appliances, including the hot water heater, and the toilets. Confirm you empty all the water from the system. If you're uncertain of how to flush the water from the pipes, or don’t feel comfortable performing it on your own, a plumber in will be delighted to help.