Fix-It Chick: How to avoid frozen pipes over cold months

When the temperature outside drops below 20 degrees Fahrenheit and the wind begins to blow, uninsulated water lines and drain pipes are likely to freeze. A few simple steps can help avoid a problem before it happens.

Step 1: Pipes located inside exterior walls, crawl spaces and attics are the most likely to freeze during the winter months. A quick analysis of plumbing fixtures and faucets can help identify problem areas. Pay special attention to laundry facilities located in garages or on back porches, and sinks, toilets or showers situated along exterior walls.

Step 2: Use caulk, spray foam insulation, caulk cord or other insulating materials to fill any cracks, crevices or holes in the exterior of the home, especially near bath areas, kitchens and laundry rooms. Use duct seal putty to fill holes where cable, telephone wire or other materials enter or exit the home.

Step 3: Run electric heating cables along the underside of water lines located in unheated areas, such as crawl spaces, garages, or back porches. Make sure the cable runs the full length of the pipe. Most types of electric heating cables are not meant to be wrapped around the pipe, but instead should be attached in a straight line along the bottom of the pipe. Be sure to read all of the installation instructions before attaching electric cables to any pipe. Add on a thermostatically controlled plug adapter to assure the cables turn on when temperatures drop below 37 degrees Fahrenheit and turn off when they rise above 45 degrees.

Step 4: Wrap at-risk water and drain pipes with closed cell foam and/or fiberglass pipe wrap insulation. Pipes with heating cables attached should also be wrapped with fiberglass or foil insulation to reduce heat loss. When dealing with exposed water lines, the more insulation that is applied, the better the chances are of avoiding frozen pipes.

Step 5: Disconnect garden hoses from outdoor spigots and cover the spigot with an insulating bonnet.

Step 6: On cold winter nights, leave cabinet doors open to allow warm air to circulate beneath sinks and appliances located on exterior walls.

Step 7: Dripping faucets waste water, but in particularly vulnerable areas, leaving both cold and hot water dripping will stop pipes from bursting if they do happen to freeze.

Step 8: Always keep the furnace thermostat set at 55 degrees Fahrenheit or higher throughout the winter.

— Have a home improvement question for Fix-It Chick? Email it to Linda Cottin at