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How to avoid water damage after cold weather

You might think that cold weather is the biggest risk to your home – once ice and snow have gone, however, the thaw could also put your home at risk.

Escape of water is one of the most common reasons for home insurance claims, so it’s important to take steps to avoid water damage once the snow and ice begins to melt.

Cracks in pipes and plumbing joints may not be noticeable, for example, because frozen water is keeping them sealed - but as it defrosts, it could cause leaks and internal floods. These may start slowly at first - almost unseen - but could lead to costly damage and disruption.

So, how can you avoid water damage after cold weather? Don’t wait until the thaw to worry about water damage. Here are four checks you can make right now to avoid it – just think T.H.A.W:

T: Test all taps

Check taps to make sure that water is free flowing. If the flow is restricted or intermittent, check with a plumber in case there is hidden damage. Look for split, dripping, rusting or oxidised pipes and joints. 

H: Heat

Consider keeping heating on low at nights if your house is not fully insulated to beyond the current standards. Even if day temperatures are milder, the nights are likely to be cold and you may not know if a cold snap hits overnight.

A: Attics and loft spaces

Check for any supply or overflow pipes that have frozen, and check cisterns for leaks. If you have water pipes or cisterns in the loft, open the loft hatch to let warm air enter the roof void during very cold spells, and check lagging and insulation has not slipped or become displaced.

W: Water isolation and shut-off valves

Know where they are, especially where the main valve is. If you need to turn it off for a single appliance, or the whole house, in an emergency make sure you and your family at home, and appropriate colleagues at work, know where the key isolation valves are and how to operate them. At home, let a friendly neighbour know when you’re going out for a long period of time or going away, and where your main isolation valve is so that they can isolate the water in the event of an emergency. Test shut-off valves and stopcocks regularly to ensure that they work and do not become stiff.

What should you do if you discover a sudden leak?

First things first - turn off at the water isolation valve (stopcock). Put plugs in to the bath, basins and sink to capture some water and open the taps to drain down the system - making sure the bath, basins and sinks don’t overflow. The water you capture will give you a temporary supply while you await help. If damage has occurred, call your broker or insurance company and arrange professional help. If you have isolated the leak without causing any damage you may need to contact a professional plumber. Speak to your insurance company to find out how an escape of water applies to your policy and for more information on the level of insurance cover you have in place and the terms and conditions of your policy.