Snow-covered winter weather presents a great opportunity for things like sledding down a nearby hill or snowball fights in the neighbor's yard. However, winter weather can be tough on your home. Excessively cold conditions can encourage the water lines in your plumbing to freeze and burst, which could cause significant water damage and enduring negative effects.

When your pipes are covered in ice, you might need to call a plumber in to handle the problem. However, there’s a lot you can perform on your own to prevent 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 greatest risk of freezing are uncovered water lines. Prevalent 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 correctly insulated are at the highest risk.

How to Stop Pipes from Freezing in Your Home

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

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

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

  • Wraps or roll insulation: Lots of plumbers, hardware stores and large retailers sell insulation – typically fiberglass, foam wraps or pipe sleeves – that you can use to wrap or fit around your pipes. They are sold in numerous lengths and sizes to fit 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 add insulation in time, consider covering uninsulated pipes in this.
  • Towels or rags: If you aren’t able to add insulation and don’t have any newspaper to use, wrapping notably vulnerable pipes with towels or clean rags as a last-ditch effort may be just enough to keep the cold air off the pipes.

An additional preventative step you can attempt to stop pipes from freezing in your home is to seal up any cracks that can permit cold air in your home. Pay close attention to window frames, which can let in surprisingly powerful drafts. Not only will this 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 underneath the sinks and other rooms of your home that have 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 move even a small amount can help thwart frozen pipes.
  • Open interior doors. By opening doors in rooms or hallways, your home can be heated more equally. This is particularly important if you have a room that tends to be colder or hotter than the rest of the home.
  • Close the garage door. The exception to the open doors tip is the garage door, which you should keep closed – especially if your water lines can be found near or under the garage.
  • Keep the heat flowing. 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 lower than 55 degrees.

How to Stop Pipes from Freezing in an Unused Home

When you’re inside a house, it’s easier to know when something goes wrong. But what additional steps can you take to prevent pipes from freezing in a vacant home or vacation home when the damages from a frozen pipe might not be discovered for some time?

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

Extra Steps to Stop Pipes from Freezing in an Empty Home:

  1. Leave the heat on. Even though you aren't currently using the home, it’s best to leave the heat on – even if you adjust the thermostat down lower than you would if you were there. As with a primary home, experts encourage keeping the temperature at no cooler than 55 degrees.
  2. Shut water off and drain the lines. If you’re going to be away for several weeks or are winterizing a rustic cabin or cottage, switching the water off to the house and emptying the water out of the water lines is an easy way to keep pipes from freezing and bursting open. Try not to forget to flush the water out of any appliances, such as the hot water heater, and the toilets. See to it that you get all the water from the plumbing. If you are not sure of how to drain the water from the pipes, or don’t feel comfortable doing it without any help, a plumber in will be happy to help.