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Take action! Protect pipes against the big freeze

Take action! Protect pipes against the big freeze

Category: Home insurance

Updated: 12/12/2014
First Published: 12/12/2014

This article was correct at the time of publication. It is now over 6 months old so the content may be out of date.

All of us are now feeling the harsh bite of winter, and with the weather set to worsen, now is the time to make sure that you and your home are ready for the icy onslaught. Protecting your water pipes against the cold may be the last thing on your mind, but a burst pipe in winter can be a real headache, so taking the time to prevent it from happening can be a wise move.

The cost of frozen pipes

Frozen pipes are a common problem in winter, but they can cause a lot of damage if they aren't dealt with quickly. If water in a pipe freezes, it expands, which could cause the pipe to burst and spill water into your home.

According to insurer Saga, burst pipes and escaping water make up around one in five claims during this time of year. This means that the odds of you waking up and finding your home flooded or your boiler broken are quite high.

Claims for this kind of damage as a result of a burst pipe are sizeable, with the average insurance claim being between £6,500 and £7,500, according to the Association of British Insurers (ABI). For this reason, it pays to make sure that your home insurance will cover the cost of damage caused by a burst pipe – this is one bill you definitely don't want to foot.

However, if you've checked that you're covered and your insurer is indeed willing to pay the bill, it's best not to sit back and relax. Even if your insurer will cover the cost, repairing the damage can be time consuming and disruptive.

"Home insurance will pay for the often costly damage caused by burst pipes, but it cannot compensate for the misery and inconvenience that they bring," commented Aidan Kerr, ABI's head of property. "Every winter, damage caused by burst pipes is widespread and expensive. Prevention is better than cure and a few simple steps can reduce the risk of facing the trauma of frozen or burst pipes during the winter," he added.

So, what exactly can you do to prevent your water pipes from freezing over?

Keeping the big freeze at bay

Keeping your water pipes warm and cosy isn't hard work. In fact, there are a few simple steps that everyone can follow to help prevent the big freeze ruining the festive period with a burst pipe.

  • Keep the heating on.

If you're planning on going away for the Christmas period, it's best not to try and save money by turning off the heating in your absence. If there is no hot water or warm air circulating around your home, your pipes will be in danger of freezing. Make sure that you have your heating on regularly and use a timer if you are going away. You don't have to heat your home to a tropical temperature, around 12-15°C will do, but keeping the heating going will make a big difference.

  • Insulate your pipes.

We've all heard the benefit of insulating our home, but your water pipes can also benefit from the same protection. It's an especially good idea to make sure that the pipes and water tank in your loft are well insulated.

  • Repair dripping taps

If you have a dripping tap, fix it! Leaving a tap to drip could mean that if the tap freezes, it may block the pipe and cause damage.

  • Check your stopcock

Make sure you know where your stopcock is and that it works properly. If a pipe does burst or freeze, you will need to be able to turn off your water as quickly as possible.

  • Let warm air circulate

Opening cabinets in the kitchen and bathroom will help the warm air to reach the pipes underneath the sink and near the outside wall. It's also a good idea to open up the loft hatch a little so that the warm air from below can reach the pipes in your loft.

What to do if your pipes freeze

If a pipe does freeze, turn off your stopcock straight away. You can then try to warm the pipe back up with a hot water bottle or a hairdryer.

However, if a pipe bursts, you will need to turn off the water supply along with the central heating and any other water heating installations. Once the water is off, open the taps to completely drain the system and then contact your home insurance provider for advice and to arrange professional repairs.

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Disclaimer: Information is correct as of the date of publication (shown at the top of this article). Any products featured may be withdrawn by their provider or changed at any time.