Why Do Pipes Burst in the Winter?

During the winter season, one of the most common and serious problems that homeowners face is burst pipes. Burst pipes can cause significant damage to the property, leading to costly repairs and inconvenience.

In this article, we will explore the causes of burst pipes in winter, why it is a serious problem, and provide some statistics on how common and costly burst pipes are. We will also offer some tips on how to prevent burst pipes and the benefits of doing so.

The primary cause of burst pipes in winter is freezing temperatures. When water freezes, it expands, and this expansion can cause pipes to crack or burst. Pipes that are exposed to cold air, such as those in unheated areas, are more susceptible to freezing.

Additionally, pipes that are poorly insulated or have cracks or leaks can also freeze more easily. Another factor that can contribute to burst pipes is water pressure. When water pressure builds up due to a blockage or other issue, it can cause pipes to burst.

Burst pipes can cause significant damage to the property, leading to costly repairs and inconvenience. According to the Insurance Information Institute, the average cost of a burst pipe claim is around $10,000. This cost can vary depending on the extent of the damage and the location of the burst pipe.

In addition to the financial cost, burst pipes can also cause water damage, mold growth, and structural damage to the property. These issues can lead to health problems and reduce the value of the property.

Preventing burst pipes is essential to avoid the costly repairs and inconvenience that come with them. Some tips for preventing burst pipes include insulating pipes in unheated areas, keeping the thermostat at a consistent temperature, allowing faucets to drip during extremely cold weather, and fixing any leaks or cracks in pipes.

Additionally, it is essential to have regular maintenance checks on the plumbing system to identify any potential issues before they become a problem.

Preventing burst pipes not only saves homeowners from costly repairs and inconvenience, but it also helps to conserve water and energy. By fixing leaks and insulating pipes, homeowners can reduce their water usage and lower their energy bills. Additionally, preventing burst pipes can help to maintain the value of the property and prevent health problems associated with water damage and mold growth. Overall, taking steps to prevent burst pipes is a wise investment for homeowners.

Tip 1: Insulate exposed pipes

Insulating exposed pipes is a crucial step in preventing them from freezing during cold weather. Identifying the pipes that are most vulnerable to freezing is the first step in this process. Outdoor spigots, and pipes in the basement, attic, and garage are some of the most common areas where pipes are exposed to freezing temperatures. These pipes are often located in areas that are not heated, making them more susceptible to freezing.

Different types of insulation materials can be used to insulate pipes. Foam insulation is a popular choice as it is easy to install and provides excellent insulation. Fiberglass insulation is another option that is commonly used. It is more expensive than foam insulation but provides better insulation. Newspaper can also be used as insulation material, although it is not as effective as foam or fiberglass insulation.

When installing insulation, it is important to have the right tools and supplies. These include a tape measure, utility knife, scissors, gloves, safety glasses, and a dust mask. The insulation material should be cut to the appropriate length and wrapped around the pipe. The ends of the insulation should be sealed with tape to prevent air from getting in. It is also important to ensure that the insulation is tightly wrapped around the pipe to prevent any gaps.

Insulating exposed pipes is a DIY project that can save homeowners a lot of money in the long run. It not only prevents pipes from freezing but also helps to conserve energy by reducing heat loss. While there are many resources available on how to insulate pipes, it is important to note that not all insulation materials are created equal.

It is essential to choose the right insulation material and install it correctly to ensure maximum effectiveness. By taking the time to insulate exposed pipes, homeowners can protect their plumbing systems and save money on their energy bills.

Tip 2: Heat pipes with cable or tape

Heat pipes with cable or tape are an effective solution for preventing frozen pipes, particularly in regions with cold climates. These systems work by providing a constant source of heat to the pipes, preventing water from freezing and causing damage to the plumbing system.

The cable or tape is wrapped around the pipe and plugged into an electrical outlet, which then heats the cable and transfers the heat to the pipe. This method is particularly useful for metal or plastic pipes that are prone to freezing, as they can easily be damaged by the expansion of ice within the pipe.

When installing pipe heating cable or tape, it is important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. The cable or tape should be wrapped tightly around the pipe, without overlapping, to ensure that the heat is evenly distributed. It is also important to secure the cable or tape in place using clips or adhesive tape, to prevent it from slipping or moving over time.

Additionally, it is important to ensure that the cable or tape is not damaged during installation or use, as this can lead to electrical hazards or damage to the plumbing system. Overall, pipe heating cable or tape is a reliable and effective solution for preventing frozen pipes, but it is important to follow safety precautions and manufacturer’s instructions to ensure that it is installed and used correctly.

Tip 3: Run water at a trickle

Running water at a trickle is a simple yet effective method to prevent water from freezing in pipes during cold weather. When water flows through pipes, it generates heat due to friction, which helps to keep the water from freezing.

By running water at a low flow, the heat generated is enough to prevent the water from freezing, even in extremely cold temperatures. This method is particularly useful for pipes located on exterior walls or in unheated areas of the house, where the risk of freezing is higher.

To implement this method, it is recommended to leave cold water faucets on a slow trickle, with a few drops per minute. It is important to note that hot water should not be used, as it can cause the pipes to expand and contract, leading to damage. Additionally, it is advisable to leave the faucets furthest from the main water supply on, as they are more susceptible to freezing. It is also important to periodically check the water pressure to ensure that the trickle is sufficient to prevent freezing.

While running water at a trickle is an effective method to prevent frozen pipes, there are some drawbacks to consider. Firstly, it can lead to a higher water bill, as water is being used continuously.

Secondly, it may not be a viable option for those who collect and reuse water, as it can lead to waste. In such cases, alternative methods such as insulating pipes or using heat tape may be more suitable. However, it is important to note that these methods may require professional installation and can be more expensive. Ultimately, the choice of method depends on individual circumstances and the severity of the weather conditions.

Tip 4: Keep house temperature consistent

Maintaining a warm and even temperature throughout the house is crucial in preventing cold spots and drafts that can freeze pipes. It is recommended to set the thermostat at a minimum level and avoid turning off the heat when away, at least 55°F/13°C, to ensure that the pipes do not freeze.

However, it is important to note that setting the temperature too high can also lead to problems such as condensation and mold growth. To keep the heat inside the house, it is suggested to insulate walls and windows, close doors and curtains, and seal any gaps or cracks in the house.

Additionally, using a humidifier can help to maintain a comfortable temperature and prevent dry air, which can lead to respiratory problems. It is also important to regularly check and maintain the heating system to ensure that it is functioning properly and efficiently.

Furthermore, using renewable energy sources such as solar panels or geothermal heating can be an effective way to reduce energy costs and carbon footprint. By implementing these measures, homeowners can ensure a warm and comfortable living environment while also reducing the risk of frozen pipes and other related issues.

Tip 5: Open cabinet doors under sinks

Opening cabinet doors under sinks is a simple yet effective way to prevent frozen pipes during cold snaps. When temperatures drop, pipes located in unheated rooms or on exterior walls are at risk of freezing.

By opening the cabinet doors, warm air from the room can circulate the pipes, keeping them above freezing temperatures. It is important to note that not all sinks require this action, only those at risk of freezing.

Additionally, it is recommended to only do this during periods of extreme cold to conserve energy and prevent unnecessary heat loss. It is also important to ensure that any cleaning products or hazardous materials are safely stored out of reach of children or pets.

Furthermore, it is crucial to regularly inspect pipes for any signs of damage or wear and tear, as prevention is always the best course of action. By taking these simple steps, homeowners can avoid costly repairs and ensure the safety and comfort of their homes.


Preventing burst pipes in winter is crucial to avoid costly and inconvenient plumbing disasters. The main tips to prevent burst pipes include insulating pipes, keeping the thermostat at a consistent temperature, and allowing faucets to drip during freezing temperatures. Additionally, it is important to locate and seal any air leaks in the home, as cold air can cause pipes to freeze and burst.

One rarely discussed tip is to regularly check the water pressure in your home. High water pressure can put extra strain on pipes, increasing the likelihood of a burst. Installing a pressure regulator can help prevent this issue.

Another important aspect is to properly drain and winterize outdoor faucets and irrigation systems. Neglecting to do so can lead to frozen and burst pipes, causing damage to both the outdoor fixtures and the indoor plumbing system. By following these tips, homeowners can avoid the headache and expense of burst pipes in winter.

Don’t let your pipes freeze this winter. Follow these simple DIY tips and save yourself from a plumbing nightmare. Share this article with your friends and family to help them prevent burst pipes and avoid the hassle and expense of plumbing disasters.

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