If you live in a temperate climate, you likely worry most about water damage in the spring and summer -- melting snow and sudden thunderstorms can lead to flooding, while an older roof may begin to leak after being damaged by wind or debris. However, a large number of water damage claims are made not by the introduction of rain water or snow melt, but by a burst pipe that forces water inside the home. Winter's cold temperatures can put great strain on ground pipes, leading to burst or leaking seams and eventual water damage.

Read on to learn more about how you can prevent pipe leaks in your home this winter.

Identify problem areas

If you have an insulated or heated basement, you've already solved half the battle. Most of your home's piping is inside, and should be shielded from the harshest of winter weather. However, you can still be at risk for pipe leaks. 

Once or twice per year, you should visually inspect all exposed pipes. Check under your sinks for any signs of moisture or condensation on the outside of the pipes, as well as any signs of water damage to the surrounding cabinet (such as warped or rippling wood). If any seams where two pipes join appear to be emitting even a small amount of moisture, you should repair these as quickly as possible. Some find it useful to perform this inspection whenever Daylight Savings Time requires them to change their clocks -- on an easy to remember semi-annual basis. 

If you don't have a basement, any pipes that are exposed to the ground or the colder outside air may be at risk for bursting if not properly insulated before winter weather hits. Luckily, protecting your pipes can be fairly simple.

Protect your pipes

You can significantly decrease your odds of a burst pipe by making sure that your pipes never reach a freezing temperature. This can be accomplished in one of several ways:

  • Heat tape

Most hardware and home supply stores sell a special type of tape that produces its own heat. When applied to your pipes, this tape will ensure that they never freeze. Be sure to inspect your heat tape at the end of each winter to ensure that it is still in good condition and does not need to be replaced.

  • Insulation

Another way to ensure that your pipes maintain a constant temperature is to insulate them. You can either insulate the pipes themselves -- by wrapping them in blankets or another type of insulation -- or you can insulate the crawlspace or other area in which your pipes are located. If you live in an area where the ground frequently freezes, insulation itself may not be sufficient, and you may want to consider also heat taping your pipes.