Winter Household Tips – Frozen Pipes

Tysers Insurance Brokers |

Frozen and burst pipes can mean enormous inconvenience, with leaks also capable of causing extensive damage to your home and possessions.

They can also be extremely messy to repair and require floors, lawns, tarmac or paving to be disrupted and replaced. Some of the precautions below may help you avoid winter plumbing hassles.

  • Make sure you insulate any outside water faucets. During cold spells it may be preferable to shut off and drain these completely, using the inside stop tap. Likewise, exterior sprinkler systems should be winterised to prevent freezing.
  • Insulate your water tank and any pipes located in unheated areas of the home and exposed to freezing cold, such as the loft, roof spaces, unheated basements, outbuildings or garages. Pipes under kitchen sinks, in crawl spaces, and near windows are also prone to freezing.
  • Leave your heating on while you are away from home. Your pipes are more at risk if your house is unoccupied and unheated and frozen pipes are often the result of the central heating being switched off completely when a house is empty. During sustained periods of wintry conditions and frost, even leaving your heating at a minimum setting can help to prevent damage to your home. The heating should be on ‘low’, or set to come on a couple of times a day.
  • Make sure you know where to locate the main stopcock, in case you need to turn off your water supply in case of an emergency. The internal stop tap is often found under the kitchen sink, in the utility room, basement, ground floor bathroom or garage – most likely wherever the water pipe enters your home. Check that the main stopcock is working correctly on a regular basis. It should be easy to turn it off in an emergency, saving precious time. One idea is to put a tag on it, making the stopcock even easier to find if there is ever a problem and time becomes precious.
  • If your home is likely to be vacant for several days, it may be a good idea to turn off the water with the stopcock. While this may not prevent frozen pipes, it will significantly reduce the damage to your home should a pipe freeze.
  • Arrange for someone to check the property at least once a day during periods of extended absence. Make sure the person in question is aware of the location of the main stopcock.
  • On particularly cold days, open your loft trap door to allow warm air from other parts of the house to circulate into the loft. You might also leave bathroom or kitchen cabinet doors open if they are adjacent to outside walls, so warmer room air can circulate around the pipes. Be mindful of chemicals stored in such cabinets if you have small children or pets.
  • If you have experienced frozen pipes in the past, on particularly cold nights or during periods of low usage, try running a small steady stream of water from a cold water tap at the highest point in the home. Still water freezes faster than running water and even a small trickle will mean at least some movement through any sections of pipe situated in cold spaces. Note that dripping taps in general are signs of a problem and should be addressed.


What to do if you discover a frozen pipe

A frozen pipe may burst when it starts to warm and thaw, at which point severe damage can be caused as water from the melting pours from the break. Therefore if you detect, or even suspect a frozen pipe, you should immediately contact your plumber.


If a pipe has burst

  • Turn off the water at the mains stopcock to limit the amount of water that can escape.
  • Open all cold water taps and flush the toilet to drain the system. Don’t turn on the hot taps as this may cause further problems.
  • Switch of the central heating system and any other water heating installations, such as boilers and immersion heaters, to avoid further damage or even an explosion.
  • Do what you can to protect or remove items in the path of thawing water running from the burst.



Need help?

For further risk management advice and insurance quotations please contact a member of our Private Client Team in your nearest regional office.



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