The snowy winter weather presents a great opportunity for fun activities like sledding down a nearby hill or snowball fights in the back yard. That being said, winter weather can be tough on your home. Severely cold conditions can encourage the water lines in your house's plumbing system to freeze and burst, which could cause severe water damage and enduring negative effects.

If your pipes are covered in ice, you should contact a plumber in to resolve the issue. Nevertheless, there’s a lot you can perform on your own to prevent this from happening – and even minor prevention can go a long way.

What Pipes Are at a Higher Chance of Freezing

The pipes at the greatest risk of freezing are exposed water lines. Prevalent locations for uncovered pipes are within attic crawlspaces, near exterior walls, in the basement or even running beneath a modular home. Water lines that are not appropriately insulated are at the highest risk.

How to Prevent Pipes from Becoming Frozen in Your Home

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

Be careful not to wrap other flammable insulation materials where they may be caught on fire. If you don’t feel confident insulating the pipes on your own, call your local plumbing services professional in to handle the job.

If you do prefer to insulate the pipes on your own, common insulation materials for pipes consist of:

  • Wraps or roll insulation: Lots of plumbers, hardware stores and large retailers sell insulation – usually fiberglass, foam wraps or pipe sleeves – that you can use to cover or fit around your pipes. They are offered in different 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 in time, consider covering uninsulated pipes in this.
  • Towels or rags: If you don't have the chance to buy insulation and don’t have any newspaper close by, 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.

Another preventative step you can take to stop pipes from freezing in your home is to seal any cracks that can permit cold air into your home. Pay close attention to window frames, which can draw in surprisingly intense drafts. Not only will this help to stop 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 underneath the sinks and other spaces of your home with pipes will allow 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 prevent frozen pipes.
  • Open interior doors. By opening doors for rooms or hallways, your home can be heated more evenly. This is particularly important if you struggle with a room that is frequently colder or hotter than the rest of the home.
  • Close the garage door. The exception to the open doors recommendation is the garage door, which you should keep closed – particularly if your water lines run through the garage.
  • Keep the heat flowing. Experts suggest setting the thermostat at a constant temperature and leaving it in place, rather than letting it get lower at night. Set it no cooler than 55 degrees.

How to Keep Pipes from Freezing in a Vacant Home

When you’re at home, it’s easy to recognize when something breaks down. But what additional steps can you take to keep pipes from freezing in a vacant home or vacation home when the damages from a frozen pipe can remain unnoticed for days or even weeks?

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

Alternative Steps to Prevent 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 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 recommend 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 several weeks or are winterizing a seasonal cabin or cottage, switching the water off to the house and draining the water out of the water lines is an easy way to stop pipes from freezing and bursting open. Don’t forget to drain the water out of all appliances, like the hot water heater, and the toilets. See to it that you empty all the water from the plumbing. If you’re unsure of how to drain the water from the pipes, or don’t feel confident doing it yourself, a plumber in will be happy to help.