Skip to main content

Preventing Your Pipes From Freezing

Bitter cold temperatures increase the risk that a home’s pipes will freeze and potentially burst. Even a small crack can result in devastating and expensive water damage. Just one burst pipe can cause more than $5,000 in water damage, according to The Insurance Institute for Business & Home.

The pipes most at risk are those located in unheated interior spaces such as basements, attics and garages, but even pipes within cabinets and exterior walls can freeze. You can take steps now before winter begins to prevent this from happening in your home.

Protecting your pipes

Before temperatures drop, follow the preventative measures below to protect your pipes.

Inside your home

  • Insulate pipes with a pipe sleeve or by wrapping them with pipe insulation or heat tape.
  • Use caulk or apply spray foam insulation to any cracks that might let in cold air, especially in places where pipes and connections run from inside to outside the home.
  • Keep your thermostat at the same temperature both day and night.
  • If you're unable to maintain heat in your home during extremely cold weather, consider allowing your faucets to drip. Running water through pipes can help prevent them from freezing. (Always heed the advice of your local authorities.) 
  • Open your bathroom and kitchen cabinet doors to allow warm air to circulate around the pipes.
  • Install water leak detectors near your pipes. If a leak is detected, this monitoring device will automatically turn off the water to prevent further damage.

Outside your home

  • Keep garage doors closed if you have water supply lines or pipes in your garage.
  • Disconnect and drain your outside hoses and store them in the garage. Even frost-proof faucets can burst if a hose is connected.
  • Close inside valves connected to your outdoor hose bibs, then open the outdoor hose bibs to allow any water remaining in the pipe to drain.
  • If you have a swimming pool or water sprinkler supply lines, drain the pipes by following the directions provided by the manufacturer or installer.

If you discover a frozen pipe

If the water only drips or trickles out when you turn on your faucet, it’s likely that you have a frozen pipe. You’ll need to act quickly to thaw the pipe, but do it carefully to avoid creating any further damage. Here are some tips to get the water flowing again:

  • Open the faucet to begin the thawing process.
  • Apply heat to the frozen section by either wrapping an electronic heating pad around the pipe, heating the area with a hair dryer or covering the pipe with towels soaked in hot water.
  • Continue applying heat until water flow returns to normal. Take a minute to turn on other faucets in your home to check for additional frozen water pipes.
  • Call a plumber if you’re unable to thaw the frozen pipe on your own.

Safety Tip: Using an open flame to thaw your frozen pipes could be very dangerous. Avoid using a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove or similar devices.

If your frozen pipe bursts

A burst pipe can cause a lot of water damage to your home. A small crack in a pipe can release up to 250 gallons of water per day, causing flooding and serious structural damage and also promoting mold growth. If a pipe bursts, immediately take these recommended steps to mitigate the damage:

  • Shut off the main water valve. The main water valve is typically located on the exterior of the home on the side facing the street.
  • Contact an emergency service and schedule an appointment for them to come to your home to properly dry out the damaged area.

Safety Tip: Using electrical appliances where there is standing water could lead to electrocution. Make sure to clean up all puddles before plugging anything in.