Prepare Your Pipes for Freezing Temperatures

Winter freezes offer a great opportunity for fireside storytelling and breaking out the coziest blankets. But before you start a batch of your best hot cocoa, be sure that you’ve taken precautions to protect your home’s plumbing. When the temperature outside dips below freezing, the water inside a pipe can freeze and expand, causing the pipe to burst. A few simple precautions can help safeguard your home against water damage that can occur to flooring, walls, and valuables.

insulated pipe

Outside Your Home

Exposure to the elements make the pipes outside your home especially vulnerable to below-freezing conditions. Protect your home by following these steps:

  • Disconnect hoses from the spigots, drain any remaining water from them, and store them in the garage
  • Wrap exposed pipes with foam insulation, and check that no part of the pipe is exposed to the air
  • Attach an insulating hood over the spigot, and make sure it’s flush with the outside wall
  • Seal any cracks or holes where the exterior pipes connect to the interior of your home
  • If temperatures are expected to reach extreme lows, shut off the water to the exterior spigots and faucets and allow any water remaining in the pipes to drain.
faucet with dripping water

Utility Spaces

Even indoor pipes can be at risk if they’re not in a temperature-controlled part of the home. Check your attic, garage, basement, and crawl spaces for any exposed and uninsulated pipes.

To upgrade your indoor pipe defenses, and you have access to nearby electrical outlets, explore the potential use of heat cables to better protect the pipes in these vulnerable parts of your home.

Inside Your Home

Once you’ve properly insulated and prepared your exterior pipes, there’s still plenty you can do inside to keep your pipes warm.

  • Keep the temperature inside your home above 55 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Open the cabinet doors below the sinks to let warm air circulate around the pipes
  • Set faucets to a slow, steady drip to keep water in your pipes moving

If the Pipes Freeze

You’re almost done, but there is one last area to check off your list. Keep a look out for the sudden appearance of dripping or standing water, changes in water pressure or temperature, frost forming on exposed pipes, or strange colors, odors or noises when using the water. Any of these signs can point to a burst pipe.

You should have a plan ready and all the supplies you may need within easy reach in case a pipe does burst. A good plan includes the following:

  • Know where your water shut-off valve is located so you can quickly shut off the water to limit the damage
  • Drain the remaining water from the faucets (first cold, then hot) and flush the toilets until the tank stops refilling
  • Fully shut off your water heating system
  • Photograph damage to your home and possessions for insurance purposes
  • Clean up quickly to prevent mold, mildew and other forms of water saturation damage
  • Schedule an appointment with a local plumber

Now that you’ve diligently prepared your home’s plumbing for the coming cold, it’s time to hunker down with that hot cocoa and spend some quality time with those you love.