Insurance & You

Thursday, 01 December 2016

Frozen and burst pipes

Houses in the snow

When temperatures drop during the winter, the water in your plumbing can freeze and expand, breaking the pipes and causing leaks and water damage to your home.

To help you avoid the nightmare of burst or frozen pipes, we’ve put together some practical tips and advice for the winter months.

Avoiding burst or frozen pipes*

  • In very cold weather, it’s best to keep the heating on at a constant temperature.

  • Make sure you know where the water shut-off valve (stopcock) is, and that you can turn it easily. You will need to use this to isolate the water supply in an emergency.

  • Lag all your water pipes, and make sure your water tank in the loft is insulated.

  • Replace the washers on any dripping taps; if the tap freezes, it will block your water pipe.

  • Keep an eye on plumbing joints and pipes for any signs of freezing, and call a plumber if you spot any damage.

  • If you are going away for an extended period of time over the winter, consider draining your plumbing and heating system, but always do so with professional advice.

  • Ask a neighbour to check on your home from time to time if you’re away on holiday. If a pipe does burst, at least the damage can be minimised. 

What to do if a water pipe freezes

The main thing to remember with a frozen pipe is to act fast. Turn off the water supply and turn off the stopcock in the cold water tank.

Open the tap nearest to the frozen section, and start to thaw it out using a gentle heat source, such as a hot water bottle or a hair dryer. Never use an open flame or boiling water to thaw it out. Start from the tap end, and work your way back towards the tank. This will allow the meltwater to flow out as you go.

What to do if a pipe bursts

  • As with a frozen pipe, act as quickly as possible when you discover a leak. The sooner you stop the water escaping, the greater your chances of avoiding further damage.

  • Turn the water off at the main stopcock immediately, as well as the stopcock on your cold water tank, usually found in the loft.

  • Switch off the central heating system, including the boiler and immersion heater if you have one.

  • If the ceiling is bulging, create a hole and place a bucket underneath to allow the water to drain.

  • Locate the source of the burst if you can – if it’s from the cold water tank, empty it by running all the cold taps, and flushing the toilets a few times.

  • To drain the hot water system, turn off the cold feed pipe to the cylinder, and then run all the hot taps to empty the pipes of water.

  • Get in touch with a plumber and an electrician as soon as you can.

  • Take photographs of all the damaged items, and make a list.

Do not touch anything electrical until the electrician has given the all clear.

What happens when you make a claim

Call as soon as you can, and an expert claims team will be able to advise you on how best to proceed. If the burst pipe has caused a lot of damage, a loss adjuster may be appointed to manage your claim, and advise you on the best course of action.

The loss adjuster will make use of a professional restoration company to get your home back to normal. Any possessions that were damaged may be replaced or restored by your insurance, dependent on the specific terms and conditions set out in your policy.

*Please note that these tips will not guarantee that you won’t get a frozen or burst pipe, but may help to reduce the likelihood of it happening. 

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