Project Guide

How to Prevent Pipes From Freezing

Prevent Frozen Pipes
A person foam wrapping pipe insulation around exposed water pipes.

There are number of steps you can take to keep pipes from freezing in the first place.

  • Use pipe insulation on pipes located in the attic and crawl space, even if the climate where you live does not often have hard freeze conditions. You can also wrap pipes in heat tape or heat cables with a thermostat control. Install according to the manufacturers' directions.
  • Open cabinet doors in the kitchen and bathroom to let the warm air of the house circulate around the pipes. However, if there are water supply lines in the garage, you should keep those doors closed. 
  • Seal or caulk any cracks that might let in cold air, especially places where pipes run from inside to outside the home, such as dryer vents or water pipes.
  • As you winterize your home, disconnect your garden hoses and drain any water from the pipes that are leading to the outdoor systems. 
  • Start a small drip of water from both the hot and cold taps in the kitchen, bath, laundry areas and any other faucets in the home. A small water drip is all that is needed to keep water moving through the system and prevent frozen pipes.
  • Keep your thermostat set at a steady temperature, even at night. If you will be on vacation set your thermostat to 55 degrees or above to prevent frozen pipes while you are away. Be sure to alert a trusted neighbor if you’ll be away more than a few days, and ask them to check periodically to make sure that the measures you have taken were able to prevent frozen pipes and that nothing has ruptured.
If You Discover Frozen Pipes
A person shutting off a valve on a water line.
  • Turn on the faucet. If the water only drips or trickles out you may have a frozen pipe.
  • Check along the water line, taking note of very cold spots. Inspect carefully to see if you notice any line breaks.
  • If you find any broken pipes, turn off the main water supply to the house. Then, immediately call a professional plumber for assistance.
Thaw Frozen Pipes
A person wrapping exposed water pipe with heat tape.

First, open up the faucet for the affected pipe. The flowing water will help the ice melt even faster.

Surrounding the pipe with a heat source will melt the ice inside. This can be done in several ways:

  • Wrap the pipe in a heating pad and turn the temperature dial up to high.
  • Aim a hair dryer on high at the pipe. Keep the air moving back and forth and around the pipe in 12 to 16 inch sections at a time.
  • Encircle the pipe in heated, dampened towels. Change these wraps frequently as they lose heat to the pipe.
  • Position a space heater to circulate warm air around a section of the pipe. Move the heat source to different sections as needed and continue until the pipes are thawed and the water pressure returns to normal.

Tip: Never use extreme heat or open flames to thaw a pipe. This presents a fire hazard and can also cause serious damage to the pipe.