GUIDE TO FROZEN PIPES
When water freezes, it expands inside the pipes, causing frozen pipes. This puts pressure on the metal as well as building up a big ice blockage. The pipe will eventually burst if it is not treated.
WHY DO PIPES FREEZE?
- Insufficient insulation.
- Exposure to draughts where the pipe meets the property walls.
- Insufficient circulation of warm air throughout the property.
HOW TO AVOID FROZEN PIPES
Counterintuitive though it may seem, leaving the tap running very slightly will help to prevent freezing.
Prevention is better than cure, so take the time to check and maintain any issues and weatherproof your home before winter hits:
- Check and improve the insulation in your loft and beside water tanks.
- Make sure that pipes are wrapped in pipe lagging, which acts as insulation.
- Check that everyone in the house knows where the water stopcock is and that they know to turn it off in an emergency. This will stop the flow of water and limit the damage.
- Leave the heating on a low temperature or set it by a timer to turn on a few times throughout the day, especially if you are going on holiday.
- Ask a neighbour or a friend to check on the property at least once a week if you are going to be away for more than a few days, and definitely if you are away for over 30 consecutive days.
If the worst happens and one of your pipes DOES freeze, find out what you can do to stop it bursting.
IF A PIPE HAS FROZEN BUT NOT BURST YET
If you’ve realised that a pipe has frozen (perhaps because a tap is no longer working) but NOT burst, it’s essential that you act quickly.
6 EASY STEPS TO MANAGE A FROZEN PIPE
- Identify the blockage by feeling the pipe. The root of the problem will be obvious when you reach a section that is colder than the rest.
- Turn off the stopcock to stop the flow of water.
- Open the tap closest to the frozen pipe in order to allow the excess water to escape when it melts away.
- Do some damage control by moving furniture and belongings out of the way. Roll back the carpets, lift the curtains and cover electronic devices in case the pipe bursts.
- Let your frozen pipe defrost slowly. Do not use a naked flame, hairdryer or the central heating. If this does not work, then you should contact an emergency plumber or your insurer if you have home emergency cover.
- Assess the pipe for damage before turning the water back on.
IF A FROZEN PIPE HAS BURST
If the worst has happened and a pipe has burst, you now you need to manage the mess. The first thing to do is turn off the stopcock to stop the flow of water. Then, contact your home insurance provider.
Depending on the type of cover that you have (and how bad the water damage is) your insurer may cover the costs of sending out a plumber, replacing your possessions on a ‘new-for-old’ and even providing alternative accommodation.
Water can leave plenty of issues behind, least of all being the need to soak up all excess leaks and dry out your rooms and belongings.
Unfortunately there’s no quick fix for this, and you will have to dry out the property by leaving doors and windows open for air flow, turning the heating on or investing in a dehumidifier.
Keeping your damaged possessions is worthwhile too, as your insurance provider may ask to see the damaged items (or photos of the items) to be able to process your claim accurately.