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How to Prevent Water Pipes From Freezing in the Winter

Brentwood Community in Victorville, Ca
Brentwood Community in Victorville, Ca

Overnight temperatures in the Victor Valley, hit low’s of 19 degrees Fahrenheit, roughly the temperature that should start to cause concerns about frozen pipes. City workers kept busy this morning clearing ice from sidewalks.

It takes a few simple upgrades and some common sense to keep pipes from bursting and causing expensive headaches, particularly in climates where freezing temperatures are rare but possible. Remember, when water freezes, it expands. Freezing temperatures, even for a short period of time, may lead to fractured water pipes.

The Building Research Council at the University of Illinois determined that uninsulated pipes in an unconditioned attic are likely to start freezing at about 20 degrees Fahrenheit, but drafty gaps and cracks can lead to frozen pipes at higher temperatures.

Freezing pipes

ice4Frozen water can cause pressure buildup leading to pipes bursting. Pipes in attics, crawl spaces and outside walls are particularly vulnerable to freezing, where holes in the home’s outside wall for television, cable or telephone lines allow cold air to reach them. Each situation is unique, and may require a different approach, but here are a few general tips you may want to consider to try to keep water in pipes from freezing:

  • Keep cabinet doors open during cold spells to allow warm air to circulate around pipes (particularly in the kitchen and bathroom).
  • Keep a slow trickle of water flowing through faucets connected to pipes that run through an unheated or unprotected space. Another option is to drain the water system, especially if your house will be unattended during cold periods.
  • Fit exposed pipes with insulation sleeves or wrapping to slow the heat transfer, often times the more insulation the better.
  • Seal cracks and holes in outside walls and foundations near water pipes with caulking.

Thawing a Frozen Pipe

  • If a pipe does freeze (usually only a trickle will run from an open faucet), Do not use a torch to thaw it. A torch can cause the water inside the pipe to boil, and the pipe could explode.
  • Leave the involved faucet open while warming the pipe until full pressure is restored.
  • Wrap towels soaked in hot water around the frozen section of pipe.
  • If the pipe cannot be thawed (or if the frozen section cannot be located) contact a licensed plumber.


  • If it is possible to reach the valve without standing in water, turn off the main valve to avoid further damage.
  • If you can’t reach the valve without standing in water, call a professional plumber.

Future Protection

  • Consider relocating exposed pipes to provide increased protection from freezing. Pipes can be relocated by a professional if the home is remodeled.
  • Add insulation added to attics, basements, and crawl spaces. Insulation will maintain higher temperatures in these areas.

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