Ten ways to get pipes ready for winter

That first freeze of winter sometimes takes people by surprise.  Here are 10 ways to protect your home's pipes before and after that first cold snap.
  1. Find the main water shut-off valve and mark it with a tag or paint it red.  The valve will be located where the water supply pipe enters the house.  Look in the basement, garage or outside near one of the faucets.
  2. Test the valve by shutting it off.  Water should not continue flowing through the faucets.
  3. If the valve doesn't work or your house doesn't have one, have a plumber repair or install one.
  4. Before the cold weather hits, disconnect garden hoses and wrap outdoor pipes and faucets with rags, newspapers or other insulation.  Then cover them with plastic and tie-off with string or wire.
  5. If possible, turn off valves inside the house that control exterior faucets. Then open the faucets and leave them open through the cold months.
  6. In severe cold, drip warm water from the indoor faucet furthest from where the water enters the house.
  7. If a house is to be unheated for an extended period, turn off the main valve and water heater, then open all the indoor and outdoor faucets to drain the pipes.
  8. If a pipe does freeze, your best choice is to call a plumber.
  9. One do-it-yourself option that works in some circumstances is to wrap the frozen pipe or faucet with rags and pour hot water over the rags until water is flowing again. Then remove the wet rags and re-wrap the pipes with dry insulation.
  10. If a pipe breaks, immediately shut off the main valve and call a plumber. If you can't get the water to shut off, call the water company. Ask them to send someone out to turn off the water at the meter. Warning: This will probably cost you a service charge and may take awhile for workers to arrive.