Lots of snow and winter weather brings 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 encourage the water lines in your home to freeze and burst, which could result in severe water damage and enduring negative effects.

Once your pipes are covered in ice, you might need to call a plumber in to fix them. However, there’s a lot 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 uninsulated water lines. Common locations for uninsulated pipes are in attic crawlspaces, near exterior walls, in the basement or even running underneath a modular home. Water lines that are not appropriately insulated are at the greatest risk.

How to Prevent Pipes from Freezing Over in Your Home

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

Be mindful not to cover other flammable insulation materials where they can be caught on fire. If you don’t feel safe insulating the pipes yourself, get in touch with your local plumbing services professional in to handle the job.

If you do decide to insulate the pipes yourself, good insulation materials for pipes include:

  • Wraps or roll insulation: Multiple plumbers, hardware stores and national retailers provide insulation – usually fiberglass, foam wraps or pipe sleeves – that you can use to cover or fit around your pipes. They are offered in numerous lengths and sizes to satisfy the needs of your home.
  • Newspaper: To some degree, newspaper can be used for insulation. If the weather is going to get cold and you aren’t able to add insulation before then, consider covering uninsulated pipes in this.
  • Towels or rags: If you aren’t able to add insulation and don’t have any newspaper handy, wrapping particularly vulnerable pipes with towels or clean rags as a final effort may be just enough to keep the cold air off the pipes.

An additional preventative step you can try to keep pipes from freezing in your home is to seal any cracks that may let cold air in your home. Keep an eye on the window frames, which can draw in surprisingly powerful drafts. Not only will 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 areas of your home with plumbing will permit more warm air from the rest of the room to reach the pipes.
  • Letting water drip. Letting water flow by letting your faucets move even just a bit can help thwart frozen pipes.
  • Open interior doors. By opening doors for rooms or hallways, your home can be heated more evenly. This is especially important if you struggle with 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 advice is the garage door, which you should keep shut – particularly if your water lines run through the garage.
  • Keep the heat steady. Experts encourage setting the thermostat at a constant temperature and leaving it in place, rather than permitting it to get cooler 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 know when something isn't right. But what added steps can you attempt to keep pipes from freezing in a vacant home or vacation home when the consequences from a frozen pipe can remain unnoticed for some time?

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

Extra Steps to Stop 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 lower than you would if you were there. As with a primary residence, 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 away 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 one way to prevent pipes from freezing and bursting. Don’t forget to clear the water out of all appliances, including the hot water heater, and the toilets. Make sure you empty all the water from the system. If you're uncertain of how to clear out the water from the pipes, or don’t feel confident performing it on your own, a plumber in will be happy to assist.