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

If your pipes are covered in ice, you may want to contact a plumber in to resolve the issue. However, there’s multiple things you can perform on your own 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 highest risk of freezing are exposed water lines. Prevalent locations for exposed pipes are within attic crawlspaces, near exterior walls, in the basement or even running under a modular home. Water lines that are not correctly insulated are at the biggest risk.

How to Keep Pipes from Becoming Frozen in Your Home

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

Be mindful not to cover other flammable insulation materials where they may be caught on fire. If you don’t feel comfortable insulating the pipes yourself, get in touch with your local plumbing services professional in to get the job done right.

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

  • Wraps or roll insulation: Many plumbers, hardware stores and national retailers sell insulation – commonly fiberglass, foam wraps or pipe sleeves – that you can use to wrap or fit around your pipes. They are supplied in various lengths and sizes to suit the needs of your home.
  • Newspaper: To some degree, newspaper can be used as insulation. If the weather is cooling down and you aren’t able to buy insulation before then, wrap uninsulated pipes in this.
  • Towels or rags: If you aren’t able to add insulation and don’t have any newspaper handy, 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 let cold air in your home. Keep an eye on the window frames, which can let in surprisingly strong 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 under the sinks and other rooms of your home that have pipes will allow more warm air from the rest of the room to flow near the pipes.
  • Letting water drip. Keeping the water flowing by letting your faucets drip even just a bit can help thwart frozen pipes.
  • Open interior doors. By opening doors between rooms or hallways, your home can be heated more equally. This is especially important if you have a room that is frequently colder or hotter than the remainder of your 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 run through the garage.
  • Keep the heat steady. Experts suggest setting the thermostat at a constant temperature and leaving it alone, rather than letting it get colder at night. Set it no cooler than 55 degrees.

How to Stop Pipes from Freezing in an Unused Home

When you’re in your own home, it’s easier to know when something breaks down. But what added steps can you try to keep pipes from freezing in a vacant home or vacation home when the damages from a frozen pipe might not be discovered for a while?

As with your primary residence, placing extra insulation around any exposed water lines, opening interior doors in the home and winterizing the vacant home are the basic steps to attempt first.

Extra Steps to Keep 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 leave the heat on – even if you switch the thermostat down colder than you would if you were there. As with a primary residence, experts suggest 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 a long 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 one way to keep pipes from freezing and bursting. Remember to flush the water out of your appliances, such as the hot water heater, and the toilets. See to it that you empty all the water from the pipes. If you are not sure of how to drain the water from the pipes, or don’t feel secure performing it yourself, a plumber in will be delighted to help.