Prevent Frozen Pipes: 4 Steps to Insulate Pipes Like a Pro

By: Diana Rodriguez-Zaba
Updated on: February 9, 2024

Turning off the alarm clock as you climb out of a warm bed on a winter morning isn’t always easy. Realizing that a frozen pipe burst while you were sleeping turns waking up into a miserable day soaked with problems.

Can you find a plumber who’s available for emergency pipe repair service? Will your insurance company cover the cost of water damage restoration? Are you safe around wet electrical appliances?

No one should have to start a day like this, so that’s why we’re sharing cold-weather strategies in our Ultimate Winterizing Guide. We’ve covered some of that information in more detail with a previous post about sealing up the house against winter weather. Let’s add to your arsenal of freeze-busting tactics with a solid overview of techniques for properly insulating the pipes in your home.

1. Get to Know Your Pipes

As you make plans for protecting pipes outside the house, keep in mind that homeowners often overlook the danger of cold weather to interior plumbing. Basement pipes are usually safe because the ground around your foundation insulates their environment, but that warmth doesn’t reach the exposed pipes in unheated areas of your home: crawl spaces, the garage or your attic. Pay special attention to pipes in exterior walls.

While you’re getting to know your pipes, locate and test your system’s main shut-off valve so that you’ll be ready in case of an emergency. You don’t want to have to call a pipe repair service and explain that you can’t turn off the water flooding your house.

2. Measure Twice, Buy Once

Break out the tape measure, and arm yourself with a notepad. As you take stock of measured pipe lengths, write down their diameters too. You’ll need this information to pick up the right materials at the hardware store.

The best pipe insulating products are foam rubber sleeves with different interior dimensions that accommodate a variety of diameters.

They also come with a choice of sidewall thickness, but a three-eighths inch sleeve works for most jobs. Consider the convenience of a peel-and-stick sleeve.

The material fits around pipes just like a semi-split length, but it features a sticky tape that lets you quickly secure the sleeve without additional wrapping.

3. Consider the Details straight from Our Experts

Did you know that pipe elbows can freeze very quickly? Protect these areas by cutting a miter angle on two sleeve lengths so that they meet and cover the bend, and secure the join with foam tape.

Do you want to go with simple semi-split sleeves? Duct tape them every 10 to 20 inches so that they stay in place.

Are you thinking about insulating pipes with electric heat tape? It’s an expensive option that requires extension cords and fiberglass insulation. Most pipe repair service pros caution against mixing electricity with the possibility of ruptured plumbing, so be careful with this approach.

While insulating pipes isn’t complicated, you should pay attention to the details. If you’d like to learn a bit more about the pipe insulation details, take a look at this video from DIY expert Dave Mars.

4. Getting the Insulation Job Done

You don’t need the tool box to insulate pipes, but keep the tape measure handy. A sharp utility knife makes quick work of cutting, and the job stays cleaner too. Sleeve material is fairly stiff, but it’s easier to handle lengths on vertical pipes by working from top to bottom.

Cash in On Your Bonus and Sleep Well

Overall, the project doesn’t take much time to complete, and it comes with an interesting bonus. The water inside insulated pipes can reach temperatures 2 to 4 degrees warmer than their bare cousins, so during the summer you can turn the water heater’s setting a little lower.

Once you’ve finished the job, you’ll sleep well knowing that your insulated pipes can help avoid an emergency call for water damage repair.

If All Else Fails, ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba is Here to Help You

We hope that you never wake up to a wet mess because a frozen pipe burst in the middle of the night. ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba is committed to helping you weather the winter, and we’re here for you with the dependable water damage restoration Chicago property owners know that they can count on.

We answer your call 24/7, so contact our teams for an immediate response and a full line of professional emergency restoration services at 773-647-1985.