Winter is here! Depending on where you live, that might mean snow, ice and plummeting temperatures are coming your way – if they haven’t arrived already, that is.

As magical and romantic as winter can be, it can also wreak havoc on your home’s plumbing system. Water freezes when it expands, so if the temperature drops below freezing, your pipes are at risk of freezing and bursting.

Frozen, burst pipes can lead to leaks and flooding – two things you do not want to deal with in the depths of winter. To avoid stressful, costly plumbing issues, here are 7 steps you can take today to winter-proof your home and prevent pipes from bursting.

1.Cover up your pipes Even the slightest bit of cold air blowing on a pipe can lead to it freezing. So, to prevent pipes from bursting, you need to cover them up. Wrap any un-insulated pipes in foam, using duct-tape to secure the foam in place. Make sure to close crawl space vents, and cover up the openings with insulation to prevent cold air from leaking in.

2. Keep your house warm – Keeping your home heated will help prevent pipes from freezing. Never turn off the heat completely in the winter, even when you leave home. Keep the heat at least 55 degrees F – or warmer, if it’s extremely cold where you live. Open cabinet doors under sinks and faucets to expose the pipes to warm air, and if your pipes run along an exterior wall, consider using a fan or small space heater to keep them warm.

3. Close and drain outdoor water lines – Any water lines leading outdoors are at a high risk of freezing during winter. This can cause serious damage to your home. For any water lines leading outdoors, close their shut-off valves and drain the pipes. While you’re at it, disconnect all outdoor hoses as well.

4. Keep faucets dripping at night – When temperatures are coldest, letting cold water trickle from your faucets will help prevent freezing pipes.

5. Replace plumbing parts in poor condition Check to see if outdoor faucet handles are broken or stripped, if any pipes or fittings have leaks or cracks, or if shut-off valves are corroded or difficult to turn. If you notice anything is broken, corroding, or generally in bad condition, head to and replace them asap, before it’s freezing outside!

6. Check your household appliances – Look for puddles of water around dishwashers, washing machines and water heaters to check for leaks in pipes and/or appliance supply lines. If any of the water supply lines (or the heater supply line for the water heater) are older than 5 years, you should replace them. This will help prevent pipes from bursting and flooding your home.

7. Invest in flood-prevention tools The Flood Armour Washing Machine Hose has a built-in automatic shut-off-valve to protect your home from flooding. You can also install HammerStop Technology supply-line hoses in your dishwasher or ice-maker to prevent noisy pipes in the winter.

Winter should be a time of holiday cheer and enjoying time with loved ones. Nothing will quite ruin a family get-together like a burst pipe and a flooded home!

To prevent freezing pipes, make sure to plan ahead this year, and take these 7 easy steps to a winter-proof home.