The snowy winter weather offers things like sledding down the highest hill or snowball fights in the back yard. However, winter weather can be difficult on your home. Severely cold conditions can cause the water lines in your house's plumbing system to freeze and burst, which may cause serious water damage and enduring negative effects.

Once your pipes are frozen, you may want to contact a plumber in to handle the problem. However, there’s several tasks you can attempt to stop this from happening – and even a little prevention can go a long way.

What Pipes Are at More Risk of Freezing

The pipes at the largest risk of freezing are uninsulated water lines. Frequent locations for exposed pipes are within 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 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 most of these materials from a local plumbing company, and may also already have some somewhere in your home.

Be mindful not to wrap up other flammable insulation materials where they may light on fire. If you don’t feel comfortable insulating the pipes by yourself, call your local plumbing services professional in to get the job done right.

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

  • Wraps or roll insulation: Most plumbers, hardware stores and large retailers provide insulation – usually fiberglass, foam wraps or pipe sleeves – that you can wrap or fit around your pipes. They are supplied in numerous 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 going to get cold and you aren’t able to buy insulation before then, try wrapping uninsulated pipes in this.
  • Towels or rags: If you aren’t able to add insulation and don’t have any newspaper close by, wrapping particularly vulnerable pipes with towels or clean rags as a final effort may be just enough to keep the cold air off the pipes.

Another preventative step you can try to keep pipes from being covered in ice is to fill any cracks that can permit cold air into your home. Pay close attention to window frames, which can allow in surprisingly strong drafts. This not only will help to keep 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 pipes will enable more warm air from the rest of the room to reach the pipes.
  • Letting water drip. Keeping a flow of water by letting your faucets move even just a little can help avoid frozen pipes.
  • Open interior doors. By opening doors for rooms or hallways, your home can be heated more evenly. This is especially important if there's a room that is frequently colder or hotter than the remainder of your home.
  • Close the garage door. The exception to the open doors advice 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 recommend setting the thermostat at a stable temperature and leaving it alone, rather than allowing it to get lower at night. Set it no cooler than 55 degrees.

How to Stop Pipes from Freezing in an Unused Home

When you’re at home, it’s easier to know when something isn't right. But what additional steps can you try to keep pipes from freezing in an unused home or vacation home when the consequences from a frozen pipe may not be discovered for a while?

As with a primary residence, insulating any exposed water lines, opening interior doors throughout the home and winterizing the vacant home are the basic steps to try at first.

Other Steps to Stop Pipes from Freezing in a Vacant 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 home, 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 an easy way to prevent pipes from freezing and bursting. Remember to drain the water out of all appliances, including the hot water heater, as well as the toilets. Make sure you clear out all the water from the system. If you are not sure of how to drain the water from the pipes, or don’t feel comfortable handling it yourself, a plumber in will be happy to help.