Protecting Your Water Pipes in Cold Weather

As we move into a busy fall season, don’t let this year’s winter weather catch you unprepared. To prevent the expense and inconvenience of frozen pipes, take the following precautions to help minimize future problems.

BEFORE Freezing Weather

  • Never leave a garden hose attached to the faucet in freezing weather. Disconnect and drain hoses from outside faucets.
  • Winterize irrigation systems.
  • Insulate hot and cold pipes in unheated areas, such as the garage, crawl space, or attic.
  • Locate your main shut-off valve to your home and make sure you show household members how to turn off water to the house in case of an emergency.

DURING Freezing Weather

  • Temporarily, keep a steady drip of cold water running at an inside faucet. This keeps water moving, making it less likely to freeze.
  • Open cupboard doors under sinks, especially where plumbing is in an outside wall, to allow interior heat to warm the pipes.
  • If you plan to be away from home for several days, shutting off the water can reduce the chances of broken pipes. Leave the heat on to your home to at least 55 degrees. Shut off water to the house and open all faucets to drain pipes; flush the toilet once to drain the tank, but not the bowl. If you drain your pipes, be sure to turn off your water heater first.
  • If your neighbor is away or you are next to a vacant house and you suspect a water leak, contact DC Water 24-Hour Command Center at 202-612-3400.


  • Determine which pipe(s) are frozen. If some faucets work but other don’t, that means you have a pipe or pipes inside your home that are frozen.
  • If a pipe is frozen, assume it may be broken and will leak when thawed. Local hardware or home improvement stores may carry leak repair supplies.
  • Be ready to shut off your water in a hurry when the line thaws.

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