The snowy winter weather offers a fun day sledding down the neighborhood hill or snowball fights in the front yard. At the same time, winter weather can be hard on your home. Severely cold conditions can encourage the water lines in your home to freeze and burst, which may lead to serious water damage and enduring negative effects.

If your pipes are frozen, you should hire a plumber in to resolve the issue. That being said, there’s a lot you can do to stop this from happening – and even just a bit of prevention can go a long way.

What Pipes Are at More Risk of Freezing

The pipes at the highest risk of freezing are uninsulated water lines. Frequent 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 properly insulated are at the greatest risk.

How to Stop Pipes from Becoming Frozen in Your Home

Thoroughly insulating uncovered water lines is a great first step to keeping your pipes safe. You’ll likely have access to lots of these materials from your local plumbing company, and may also already have some somewhere in your home.

Try not to cover other flammable insulation materials where they can catch fire. If you don’t feel comfortable insulating the pipes yourself, 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: Most plumbers, hardware stores and big box retailers provide insulation – typically fiberglass, foam wraps or pipe sleeves – that you can use to cover or fit around your pipes. They are supplied in numerous lengths and sizes to fit the needs of your home.
  • Newspaper: To a decent degree, newspaper can be used for insulation. If the weather is going to get cold and you aren’t able to buy insulation soon enough, wrap 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 especially vulnerable pipes with towels or clean rags as a final effort may be just enough to keep the cold air from freezing the pipes.

An additional preventative step you can attempt to stop pipes from becoming frozen is to seal up any cracks that can let cold air into your home. Focus on the window frames, which can draw in surprisingly intense drafts. Not only should 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 beneath the sinks and other areas of your home with plumbing will allow 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 just a little can help thwart 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 other rooms.
  • Close the garage door. The exception to the open doors recommendation is the garage door, which you should keep down – particularly if your water lines run through the garage.
  • Keep the heat steady. Experts suggest setting the thermostat at a uniform temperature and leaving it there, rather than letting it get lower at night. Set it no colder than 55 degrees.

How to Prevent Pipes from Freezing in a Vacant Home

When you’re inside a house, it’s easy to realize when something breaks down. But what extra steps can you take to stop pipes from freezing in a vacant home or vacation home when the damage from a frozen pipe may not be discovered for days or even weeks?

As with a primary residence, placing extra insulation around any exposed water lines, opening interior doors inside the home and winterizing the vacant home are the basic steps to take.

Extra 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 switch the thermostat down colder than you would if you were there. As with a primary residence, 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 out of the house for a long time or are winterizing a rustic cabin or cottage, shutting the water off to the house and emptying the water out of the water lines is an easy way to stop pipes from freezing and breaking. Try not to forget to clear the water out of your appliances, like 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 secure handling it yourself, a plumber in will be happy to assist.