How to keep your pipes from freezing


A simple guide to use before you call us for help.


Cold winter weather can cause plumbing pipes to freeze and possibly burst, causing flooding and costly water damage to your home. Taking preventive measures before winter sets in can reduce and eliminate the risk of frozen pipes and other cold-weather threats.

Pipes most at risk for freezing include:
  • Exposed pipes in unheated areas of the home.
  • Pipes running near basement windows or doors.
  • Pipes located in exterior walls.
  • Any plumbing on the exterior of the home.
Fortunately, preventing pipes from freezing in your home or business is easy and inexpensive considering the alternatives:


Preventative measures for outside



A frozen garden hose can cause more damage than a busted hose; it can actually burst a pipe on the inside of your home. When the water in the hose freezes, it expands, increasing pressure throughout your whole plumbing system. As part of your regular seasonal maintenance, garden hoses should be disconnected, drained, and stored before the first hard freeze.

If you can, install frost proof spigots, but if you don’t have frost-proof spigots, close the interior shut-off valve leading to that faucet, open and drain the spigot, and install a faucet insulator. Don’t forget, outdoor kitchens need winterizing, too, to prevent damage to their plumbing system.


Exposed interior plumbing

Exposed pipes in the basement are rarely in danger of freezing because they are in a heated portion of the home. But plumbing pipes in an unheated, poorly insulated, or drafty area, such as an attic, crawl space, garage, near a basement window or door are at risk of freezing.

Often, inexpensive foam pipe insulation is enough for moderately cold climates. For severe climates or pipes located under a mobile home, opt for wrapping pipes with thermostatically controlled heat tape (price depending on length), which will turn on at certain minimum temps and keep the pipes warm to prevent freezing.




Under-insulated walls



If pipes traveling in exterior walls have frozen in the past (tell-tale signs include water damage, mold, and moisture build-up), it’s probably because of inadequate or improperly installed insulation. It might well be worth the couple hundred dollars it costs to open up the wall and beef up the insulation.

“When nothing else works, say for a northern wall in a really cold climate, the last resort is to reroute a pipe,” notes Paul Abrams, spokesperson for Roto-Rooter. Depending on how far the pipe needs to be moved — and how much damage is caused in the process — this preventative measure costs anywhere from $700 on up. Of course, putting the room back together is extra.


Heading south for the winter?

For folks leaving their houses for an extended period of time in winter, additional preventative measures must be taken to adequately protect the home from frozen pipes.
  • Make sure the furnace is set no lower than 55 degrees.
  • Shut off the main water supply and drain the system by opening all faucets and flushing the toilets.
  • In extreme situations (vacation home in a bitterly cold climate), Abrams recommends having a plumber come to inspect the system, drain the hot water heater, and perhaps replace the water in traps and drains with nontoxic antifreeze.



In certain circumstances your service line could freeze. If this happens please call the municipal authority so that we are aware of a problem area. One way to prevent this from reoccouring is by letting a faucet in your home drip or trickle slowly to keep the water moving. Moving water does not freeze at the same rate as still water.
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