We mainly live downstairs and have had the pipes burst upstairs twice. Both times we were at work and it was a mess when we got home.

This year I was thinking to turn off the valve under the kitchen sink that feeds the upstairs. We would just not use the bathroom upstairs.

Is this safe? Is this effective? This way we could go to work and not worry about the pipes freezing/bursting while we were out again...

We don't have central air and heat the house with oil through baseboards.

We live on Long Island NY and the winters can be brutal at times.

The pipes are mostly copper with some plastic PVC

  • 2
    I would recommend to turn off and drain the pipes. Empty the toilet tank also. Are your pipes in outside walls? That should be the only reason pipes burst in a heated house.
    – crip659
    Oct 17, 2023 at 22:53
  • 2
    Adding to @crip659's advice, you could also buy a gallon of RV winterizing antifreeze and pour it down drains to fill your drain traps. Do the little ones first (probably just sink and bathtub), and then pour what's left down the toilet. Only if the cold isn't just in the wall cavities, though.
    – popham
    Oct 17, 2023 at 23:03
  • My pipes are in the walls next to the exterior walls, does that help?
    – Sheila
    Oct 17, 2023 at 23:38
  • 1
    That is the main problem. Pipes in outside walls. Just ask Texan's. Not much you can do to fix it unless you move the pipes to inside walls or increase the insulation between the pipes and outside. Both kind of expensive labour wise, but I would go with moving the pipes if possible.
    – crip659
    Oct 17, 2023 at 23:59
  • I really can't afford to move the pipes, but would shutting off the water in the winter work?
    – Sheila
    Oct 18, 2023 at 0:14

1 Answer 1


Assuming nobody planned for draining the upstairs pipes, specifically, you'll probably need to shut off the main, open a valve at a low point (basement) and open all the faucets upstairs and flush the toilet to open the tank fill valve to drain the pipes, first - THEN shut the valves leading upstairs and turn the main back on.

Edit: Actually you could just drain from the kitchen sink, if the valves and pipes leading to upstairs originate there. It's below the upstairs. Still need to shut off the main, drain, close valves to upstairs, and turn main back on.

As already commented, if the rooms freeze, you'll want non-toxic antifreeze in the traps (including the toilet) to prevent breakage over the winter.

  • Ty, I will ask a plumber to do this, I do heat the upstairs at 65 degrees
    – Sheila
    Oct 17, 2023 at 23:54
  • 65 degrees is occupied temperature
    – jsotola
    Oct 18, 2023 at 0:11
  • If your pipes are freezing when the house is heated to 65°, @Sheila, you've got a SERIOUS lack of insulation problem! I saw you said your plumbing is in exterior walls (which is a bad design flaw from before you moved in), but even at that, you should have enough heat escaping through the walls to keep plumbing from freezing at those temps. I can't imagine what your heating bill must be trying to keep the house at 65° with that little insulation. Money spent on insulation will be well worth it in the long run!
    – FreeMan
    Oct 18, 2023 at 14:20
  • When morons put plumbing in outside walls, sometimes they put them right against the outside surface of the outside wall, so the cavity insulation actually helps ensure that the pipe will freeze. Thus, it's not a given that the insulation is terrible, though it's not a given that it isn't. If the pipes are right up against the inside of the wall, the insulation helps them, but it's still poor planning.
    – Ecnerwal
    Oct 18, 2023 at 14:23
  • Thank you! I did have a handyman put in insulation and also plastic sheeting just a few months ago in the spring so this will be the first winter with the additional insulation, this plus the turning off the water should help?
    – Sheila
    Oct 19, 2023 at 0:50

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