How to Insulate Exposed Water Pipes

Ice-cold tap water may taste refreshing, but it also can be a chilling sign that you need to learn how to insulate exposed water pipes throughout your home.

Winter is Coming

Burst pipes from freezing are difficult and expensive to fix, so take precautions in advance. It sneaks up fast and it seems our winterization precautions are never in time.

winterize pipes - game of thrones winter is coming promo photo
Winter is coming...and it will be here sooner than you think. Prepare your plumbing system by insulating the water pipes that are exposed in the home.

New homes with pipes placed near an exterior wall can be as prone to having frozen pipes as poorly insulated older homes.

Often the best solution is placing insulation in the wall or ceiling that contains the pipes. This helps keep your home warm and protects your pipes.

How to Insulate Exposed Water Pipes: 4 Ideas

Here are some additional ways to prevent plumbing freezes inside your home.

You’ll need about 2-3 hours to prepare the average-size home. Skills needed are the most basic level of carpentry and plumbing. Tools needed include a knife and flashlight. Pretty simple, right?

1. Insulate the Pipes by Jacketing

Insulation goes a long way toward preventing freeze-ups. But only if every square inch of pipe, including connections, is protected.

Pipe jacketing comes in standard lengths that can be cut with a knife and secured with electric tape. Ordinary insulation, cut in strips and bundled around pipes, works equally well. It costs less but takes more effort.

In an extremely cold wall or floor, pack the entire cavity with insulation. Consider insulating long runs of hot-water pipes, especially in unheated spaces. The extra insulation will conserve water-heating energy and save you a bit of money too.

how to insulate exposed water pipes - copper water supply pipes protected with pipe jacketing insulation
Insulated copper pipes. Make sure the insulation covers as much of the pipe as possible for the most thorough protection from freezing.

2. Wrap Pipes with Electric Heat Tape

Electric heat tape draws only modest amounts of current, so it is safe and inexpensive to use.

Wrap the heat tape around the pipe, and then plug it into an electrical outlet. A thermostat turns the tape on and off as needed.

Keep in mind, electric heat tape will not work during a power outage. And that could happen when you most need your pipes to be winterized.

how to insulate exposed water pipes - water pipes in ceiling with electric heat tape installed for insulation
Heat tape has been installed around the water pipe to insulate it. The thermostat integrated into the heat tape will turn on and off the heat when necessary.

3. Protect Outside Faucets

Before your first winter freeze, remove and drain all your garden hoses to prevent them from splitting.

Shut off the water that supplies your outdoor faucets. Allow them to drain, and leave them open.

If there is no indoor shutoff, install one. Better yet, install a freeze-proof faucet. This improvement may be a requirement by your local codes.

Diagram frost free spigot components I- winterize outdoor faucets with frost free spigot
A freeze-proof (or frost-free) faucet is the ultimate way to prevent freezing of outdoor faucets.

4. Extra Precautions for Really Cold Days

There are some extra measures you can take on extremely cold days.

Turn on any faucets that might be especially vulnerable to freezing. This could be a faucet that has old or corroded pipes.

Let water trickle slightly and continuously during freezing temperatures. It’s not foolproof, but it might be enough to prevent old or damaged pipes from freezing.

If there is a cabinet underneath the faucet, open its doors so that heat from the room can warm the pipes. Or use a small lamp to warm the pipes that run through cold areas of your home.

winterize pipe - trickle of water coming out of faucet
Sometimes, allowing water to trickle slightly from your faucets can prevent them from freezing.


Here are some great resources for protecting your home this winter by winterizing your plumbing.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, it’s the chore we rarely think of, but it’s critical.

If done by everyone, making sure your exposed water pipes are insulated before winter would save literally tens of millions of dollars each year in water damage. It’s not that time-consuming and takes little effort.

Call 1-Tom-Plumber

Don’t hesitate to contact us here or call us at 1-Tom-Plumber (1-866-758-6237) if you need help insulating your exposed water pipes inside or outside your home. 

1-Tom-Plumber’s certified team of plumbers and drain technicians respond immediately to any emergency plumbingdrain, or water damage problem, including excavation of underground water lines and sewer main lines. Our immediate-response team is available every day and night of the year, even on holidays.

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