(WHTM) –People either love the cold, or they just despise it. But, beyond the cold and messy travel conditions that sometimes come with winter, there is one problem that no homeowner or renter wants to ever deal with: frozen and burst water pipes.

According to the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS), frozen and burst pipes are the leading cause of property damage during the winter months. Pipes that burst can cause severe water damage, which can cost over $5,000 to repair in some cases.

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The reason why pipes burst after they freeze is due to water’s unique ability to expand as it freezes. When the water freezes inside of a pipe, the ice pushes on the outer walls of the pipe. This expansion can be so great, that it can cause cracks to form in the pipes. When the pipes unfreeze and water starts to flow, the pressure from the water flow can cause the pipes to leak or burst altogether.

Pipes that are most at risk include those in unheated interior spaces, as well as pipes running through cabinets or exterior walls are just as susceptible to freezing.

The American Red Cross has offered some tips to make sure you do not have to deal with the freezing mess of frozen and burst pipes.

  • Open kitchen and bathroom cabnets to help circulate the warm air around the plumbing
  • If you will be going away for a few days, make sure your house thermostat is not lower than 55 degrees Fahrenheit
  • If pipes are in a room of the house that is not heated, consider placing insulation around the pipes, such as a pipe sleave, heat tape or even newspaper. Just a quater inch of newspaper can provide protection to pipes which encounter freezing tempratures.
  • Letting cold water drip from taps will keep water runing and will provent the water from freezing.

If you suspect you do have a frozen pipe, The American Red Cross says to keep your faucet open as you apply heat to it. Use an electric heating pat or hairdryer to thaw frozen pipes. If you can’t find the frozen pipe easily, call a local licensed plumber.

The winter months can be full of ice, snow, and cold air. Following these tips can help make sure that the winter mess stays outside your home, and not have it come inside.

For more information about winter safety and winter safety resources, The Red Cross offers resources to help.