When the thought of winter enters your mind, the first thing you think about is how to keep yourself warm and cozy. Obviously, that’s the right thing to do because no one wants a piece of that cold temperature outside. However, you should also be responsible enough to understand that you’re not the only one who needs warmth and protection all throughout the cold season. You also should take care of your plumbing pipes.

We bet you already know it – one of the major causes of pipes bursting and leaking is freezing temperatures. You don’t want them to get frozen for the simple reason that they’re not built and designed to withstand such state. So whenever that time of the year comes when everything outside is exposed to the winter season, you should be doing these things to protect and prevent your pipes from freezing:

In this article written by Danny Lipford titled “How to Prevent Pipes from Freezing and Thaw Frozen Pipes” for TodaysHomeowner.com, it is provided that the key to keeping those pipes from freezing is to insulate and heat them:

Insulate Pipes: Insulate hot and cold water pipes in the crawlspace under your house as well as in the basement, attic, and exterior walls (if accessible) with snap-on foam insulation. Make sure foam insulation fits tightly without gaps. Apply duct tape to joints in insulation, and miter foam around elbows, so joints in pipes are completely covered.

Heat Pipes: Consider wrapping problem pipes with UL approved heat tape that has a built-in thermostat to prevent overheating. Follow the instructions that come with heat tape carefully to keep from causing a fire hazard.

Pipe insulation is one of the oldest tricks in the book. For every homeowner out there, learning how to insulate pipes is a must-have type of skill because the winter will come every year and it will never fail to freeze pipes that are not protected. The other tip is to heat them using a UL-approved heat tape, although it should be done cautiously as it can lead to a fire.

Furthermore, the same article talks about the ways for you to thaw the pipes once they become frozen. There are times when you fail to do your job in insulating or heating them, so the only solution is to thaw them, but you ought to do it the right way or you risk breaking them.

Water Cut-Off: Locate the water main cut-off valve, and have a water cut-off key handy before attempting to thaw out frozen pipes.

Open Faucet: Open the faucet the pipe runs to before thawing a frozen pipe to allow water to flow through the pipe and relieve any built-up pressure in the pipe.

Heat Frozen Pipe: Use a hair dryer, heat lamp, electric heat tape, or portable space heater to thaw frozen pipes that havent burst. Start from the interior faucet end of the pipe, and work your way toward colder end of the pipe.

Check for Leaks: After pipes have thawed, turn off all water to faucets and the icemaker, and monitor the water meter for any unseen leaks.

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Next, HouseLogic.com, in an article called “How to Prevent Freezing Pipes” talks more in detail about the scenarios where the freezing of the pipes might happen and the corresponding preventative measures you can do to avoid them in the future.

Preventative measures for outside

A frozen garden hose can cause more damage than a busted hose; it can actually burst an interior pipe. When the water in the hose freezes, it expands, increasing pressure throughout the whole plumbing system. As part of your regular seasonal maintenance, garden hoses should be disconnected, drained, and stored before the first hard freeze.

If you dont have frost-proof spigots, close the interior shut-off valve leading to that faucet, open and drain the spigot, and install a faucet insulator. They cost only a couple bucks and are worth every penny. Dont forget, outdoor kitchens need winterizing, too, to prevent damage.

Exposed interior plumbing

Exposed pipes in the basement are rarely in danger of freezing because they are in a heated portion of the home. But plumbing pipes in an unheated area, such as an attic, crawl space, and garage, are at risk of freezing.

Often, inexpensive foam pipe insulation is enough for moderately cold climates. For severe climes, opt for wrapping problem pipes with thermostatically controlled heat tape (from $50 to $200, depending on length), which will turn on at certain minimum temps.

Under-insulated walls

If pipes traveling in exterior walls have frozen in the past (tell-tale signs include water damage, mold, and moisture build-up), its probably because of inadequate or improperly installed insulation. It might well be worth the couple hundred dollars it costs to open up the wall and beef up the insulation.

When nothing else works, say for a northern wall in a really cold climate, the last resort is to reroute a pipe, notes Abrams. Depending on how far the pipe needs to be moved and how much damage is caused in the process this preventative measure costs anywhere from $700 on up. Of course, putting the room back together is extra.

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It is best that you call someone like a plumbing expert or qualified professional to ask for advice if you don’t really have a clue how to start. You see, the ways of preventing your pipes from freezing are things you cannot take for granted or ignore. They have to be done and you need to learn how to do them.