Snow-covered winter weather presents a great opportunity for things 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. Severely cold conditions can cause the water lines in your home to freeze and burst, which may result in serious water damage and enduring negative effects.

Once your pipes are frozen, you might need to hire a plumber in to handle the problem. That being said, there’s multiple things you can do to keep this from happening – and even a little prevention can go a long way.

What Pipes Are at Risk of Freezing

The pipes at the largest risk of freezing are exposed water lines. Frequent locations for uncovered 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 highest risk.

How to Keep Pipes from Freezing Over in Your Home

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

Be mindful 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, contact your local plumbing services professional in to do the job.

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

  • Wraps or roll insulation: Multiple plumbers, hardware stores and big box retailers offer insulation – commonly fiberglass, foam wraps or pipe sleeves – that you can wrap or fit around your pipes. They are sold in different lengths and sizes to satisfy the needs of your home.
  • Newspaper: To a decent degree, newspaper can be used for insulation. If the weather is getting colder and you aren’t able to buy insulation soon enough, consider covering uninsulated pipes in this.
  • Towels or rags: If you aren’t able to install insulation and don’t have any newspaper handy, wrapping especially vulnerable pipes with towels or clean rags as a final effort can be just enough to keep the cold air off the pipes.

One other preventative step you can attempt to prevent pipes from being covered in ice is to fill any cracks that could allow cold air in your home. Focus on the window frames, which can draw in surprisingly powerful drafts. This not only will help to stop your pipes from freezing, but it will have the extra 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 under the sinks and other areas of your home with pipes will permit more warm air from the rest of the room to flow near the pipes.
  • Letting water drip. Letting water flow by letting your faucets trickle even a small amount can help avoid frozen pipes.
  • Open interior doors. By opening doors between rooms or hallways, your home can be heated more evenly. This is mostly important if there's a room that is generally colder or hotter than other rooms.
  • Close the garage door. The exception to the open doors recommendation is the garage door, which you should keep down – especially if your water lines can be found near or under the garage.
  • Keep the heat steady. Experts suggest setting the thermostat at a stable temperature and leaving it in place, rather than permitting it to get lower at night. Set it no cooler than 55 degrees.

How to Stop Pipes from Freezing in an Empty Home

When you’re inside a house, it’s easy to know when something isn't right. But what extra steps can you take to prevent pipes from freezing in an empty 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, placing extra insulation around any exposed water lines, opening interior doors inside the home and winterizing the vacant home are the first steps to attempt first.

Added Steps to Prevent Pipes from Freezing in an Unused Home:

  1. Leave the heat on. Even though you aren't currently using the home, it’s best to keep the heat on – even if you switch the thermostat down colder than you would if you were there. As with a primary home, experts recommend keeping the temperature at no colder 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, shutting 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. Try not to forget to drain the water out of all appliances, such as the hot water heater, or the toilets. Make sure you empty all the water from the plumbing. If you're uncertain of how to clear out the water from the pipes, or don’t feel comfortable handling it on your own, a plumber in will be happy to assist.