Tips To Preventing Frozen Pipes

Freezing weather may bring discomforts but one of them, frozen water pipes, can be avoided with a little planning and a few simple steps.

When frigid arctic air hits, water freezes, and as it freezes, it expands — causing pipes to burst and possible flooding to occur.  Pipes that freeze most frequently are those that are exposed to severe cold, such as outdoor hose bibs and water supply pipes in unheated interior areas such as basements and crawl spaces, attics, garages or kitchen cabinets. Pipes that run against exterior walls that have little or no insulation are also subject to freezing.

There are several things that you can do to prepare for freezing weather, including:

  • Seal off any cracks that admit drafts to the basement, garage or crawl space containing water pipes or your water meter.
  • Keep all doors and windows tightly shut at all times and make adequate heating available to these areas.
  • Insulate all exposed water pipes, using pipe insulation or UL approved pipe warmers.
  • Protect your water meter from drafts by insulating it too.
  • Let water run at a slow trickle from faucets connected to lines that you know are prone to freezing.

It is also important that everyone in your household knows where the water shut-off valve is and how to use it in case pipes freeze and burst.  Typically in cold weather climates, like Wisconsin, the water shut off valve is located inside the house next to the water meter which is on the perimeter of the house usually on the street-side.   Being able to turn the water off quickly will minimize damage from broken pipes. 


IF THERE IS WATER IN PART OF THE HOUSE, the frozen pipe is inside your home.

If you can pinpoint the location you may be able to thaw it by gently heating the air around the pipe. For instance, leave cabinet doors open under the kitchen or bathroom sinks to let warm air in. If that doesn’t work, call your plumber.

IF THERE IS NO WATER ANYWHERE IN YOUR HOUSE, the service lateral is probably frozen.

This is the pipe that carries water from the public main in the street to your house. If this line is frozen, it will have to be thawed electrically. Call your utilities provider and they will send a crew to inspect and thaw the line.  (Permanent prevention of this problem requires either lowering of your service pipe below the frost line and/or insulating the service pipe).