Complete Guide on How to Keep Pipes from Freezing Over

Feb 23, 2024


Jake Nielson


Lots of snow and winter weather offers fun activities like sledding down the neighborhood hill or snowball fights in the back yard. However, winter weather can be tough on your home. Excessively cold conditions can encourage the water lines in your house's plumbing system to freeze and burst, which can lead to severe water damage and enduring negative effects.

Once your pipes are frozen solid, you might need to hire a plumber in to resolve the issue. Nevertheless, there’s multiple things you can do to keep this from happening – and even minor prevention can go a long way.

What Pipes Are at More Risk of Freezing

The pipes at the largest risk of freezing are uncovered water lines. Frequent 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 appropriately insulated are at the biggest 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 likely locate many of these materials from your local plumbing company, and could also already have some inside your home.

Be mindful not to wrap other flammable insulation materials where they may light on fire. If you don’t feel safe insulating the pipes by yourself, contact your local plumbing services professional in to do the job.

If you do decide to insulate the pipes on your own, popular insulation materials for pipes consist of:

  • Wraps or roll insulation: Many plumbers, hardware stores and big box retailers provide insulation – commonly fiberglass, foam wraps or pipe sleeves – that you can wrap or fit around your pipes. They are offered in numerous lengths and sizes to satisfy 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 put in more insulation soon enough, wrap uninsulated pipes in this.

  • Towels or rags: If you don't have the chance 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 off the pipes.

An additional preventative step you can take to prevent pipes from becoming frozen is to seal any cracks that can permit cold air into your home. Focus on the window frames, which can draw in surprisingly intense drafts. Not only will this help to prevent your pipes from freezing, but it will have the added 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 spaces of your home with plumbing will permit more warm air from the rest of the room to get to the pipes.

  • Letting water drip. Letting water flow by letting your faucets trickle even just a bit can help thwart frozen pipes.

  • Open interior doors. By opening doors for rooms or hallways, your home can be heated more consistently. This is especially important if there's a room that is generally colder or hotter than other rooms.

  • 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 are installed under the garage.

  • Keep the heat flowing. Experts recommend setting the thermostat at a persistent temperature and leaving it there, rather than letting it get colder at night. Set it no lower than 55 degrees.

How to Prevent Pipes from Freezing in an Unused Home

When you’re in your own home, it’s easy to recognize when something goes wrong. But what additional steps can you attempt to stop pipes from freezing in an empty home or vacation home when the damage from a frozen pipe might not be discovered for some time?

As with your primary residence, adding insulation to any exposed water lines, opening interior doors throughout the home and winterizing the vacant home are the best steps to take.

Alternative Steps to Keep Pipes from Freezing in a Vacant Home:

  1. Leave the heat on. Even though you won't always be home, it’s best to keep the heat on – even if you adjust the thermostat down cooler 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 out of the house for several weeks or are winterizing a vacation cabin or cottage, switching the water off to the house and emptying the water out of the water lines is one way to prevent pipes from freezing and bursting open. Remember to flush the water out of all appliances, such as 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 drain the water from the pipes, or don’t feel comfortable handling it yourself, a plumber in will be glad to offer support.