The snowy winter weather brings fun activities like sledding down the neighborhood hill or snowball fights in the neighbor's yard. However, winter weather can be hard on your home. Severely cold conditions can cause the water lines in your house's plumbing system to freeze and burst, which could result in severe water damage and long-lasting negative effects.

When your pipes are frozen solid, you might need to hire a plumber in to handle the problem. However, there’s a lot you can do to stop 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 largest risk of freezing are uncovered water lines. Prevalent locations for uninsulated pipes are inside 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 highest risk.

How to Keep Pipes from Freezing in Your Home

Properly insulating exposed water lines is a solid first step to keeping your pipes safe. You’ll generally have access to most of these materials from the local plumbing company, and may also already have some inside your home.

Be careful not to wrap other flammable insulation materials where they may catch fire. If you don’t feel confident insulating the pipes by yourself, contact your local plumbing services professional in to handle the job.

If you do decide to insulate the pipes on your own, good insulation materials for pipes are:

  • Wraps or roll insulation: Lots of plumbers, hardware stores and big box retailers offer insulation – commonly 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 suit the needs of your home.
  • Newspaper: In a pinch, newspaper can be used for insulation. If the weather is going to get cold and you aren’t able to buy insulation in time, wrap 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 could be just enough to keep the cold air from freezing the pipes.

One other preventative step you can take to prevent pipes from becoming frozen is to seal any cracks that could permit cold air into your home. Focus on the window frames, which can allow in surprisingly strong drafts. This not only will 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 under the sinks and other rooms of your home that have pipes will allow more warm air from the rest of the room to reach the pipes.
  • Letting water drip. Keeping the water flowing by letting your faucets trickle even just a little can help avoid frozen pipes.
  • Open interior doors. By opening doors in rooms or hallways, your home can be heated more evenly. This is mostly important if you have a room that is frequently 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 shut – particularly if your water lines can be found near or under the garage.
  • Keep the heat flowing. Experts encourage setting the thermostat at a persistent temperature and leaving it in place, rather than letting it get cooler at night. Set it no colder 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 isn't right. But what additional 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, adding insulation to any exposed water lines, opening interior doors in the home and winterizing the vacant home are the basic 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 keep the heat on – even if you turn the thermostat down colder than you would if you were there. As with a primary home, 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 away for an extended period of time or are winterizing a rustic cabin or cottage, shutting the water off to the house and clearing the water out of the water lines is a good way to keep pipes from freezing and bursting open. Try not to forget to drain the water out of your appliances, including the hot water heater, or the toilets. See to it that you get all the water from the system. If you’re unsure of how to flush the water from the pipes, or don’t feel secure handling it without any help, a plumber in will be glad to assist.