How to Winterize Water Pipes

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Things You'll Need

  • Pipe insulation (molded pipe sleeve)

  • Insulation tape

Indoor and outdoor pipes need winter protection.

Winter weather affects every area of daily life, even your bathing routine. If you live in a milder climate, where freezing temperatures rarely occur, you can be taken by surprise when the thermometer dips below freezing. With ever-changing weather patterns, you should know how to winterize your water pipes to keep them from freezing up. If pipes freeze, they can cause more of a headache than the inability to take a shower. Frozen pipes can often swell and burst, which can be quite costly–in terms of both money and the time it takes to replace them.


Step 1

Disconnect any outdoor water hoses. If your outdoor water faucet has an indoor shutoff in the basement or utility room, go turn off the water to that faucet. Once you have shut the water off, go back outside and turn on the water faucet to empty the line. Then turn the outside faucet back off. If you have in-ground lawn sprinklers, you should also drain them before winter. See the manufacturer's instructions for your particular brand of sprinkler.


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Step 2

Wrap all outdoor water pipes with insulation, also referred to as molded pipe sleeve, if you do not have a shutoff valve for the water that supplies them. Pipe insulation is long, pipe-shaped Styrofoam, available in different sizes from your hardware store or lawn and garden center. Once you place the insulation around the pipe, use insulation tape, also available at a hardware store, to secure the insulation in place.


Step 3

Seal around all pipes where they enter into your house with caulk or foam sealant.

Step 4

Cover indoor pipes with insulation as well, especially pipes that are on an outside facing wall or are in unheated areas of your home. Use the pipe insulation and insulation tape that you used on your outside water pipes.


Step 5

Open the cupboard doors underneath the kitchen and bathroom sinks if your water pipes are against the outside wall. This allows these pipes to get more heat. Combined with the added insulation from Step 4, this will help prevent freezing.

Step 6

Take extra precautions if you will be away from your home for the winter. Shut off the main water supply that comes into your home and then empty the water lines by opening the faucets and allowing the water to drain.


If you are still concerned about water freezing after taking these precautions, turn on your cold water faucet and allow it to trickle out in a small stream or drip. This will keep the water in the pipes moving and help prevent it from freezing. Never use hot water because it will run up your energy bill.


Never use electric heaters or tape to keep pipes from freezing. They increase the risk of fire.


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