How to avoid and deal with frozen and burst pipes

How to avoid and deal with frozen and burst pipes

Do you know how to prepare your pipes for cold weather or limit the damage to your home if a burst occurs?

Well, when temperatures drop, the likelihood of your pipes freezing and bursting increases dramatically, so it’s important you’re prepared for the worst!

Use our top tips and step-by-step guides to make sure you don’t get caught cold during winter.

Why pipes freeze and burst

If pipes in cold or draughty areas are not properly insulated and maintained, they can become frozen when temperatures fall below freezing.

When water freezes inside your pipes it expands, causing a major increase in pressure. This pressure must escape somehow, which is why they sometimes burst.

A burst can then cause flooding inside your home, while also leaving you without running water, resulting in an expensive mess to get fixed.

How to thaw frozen pipes

You might have a frozen pipe if no water or only a trickle comes out of your cold tap when it is turned on. Frost may also be visible on the outside of the affected pipe.

A frozen pipe can quickly become a burst pipe if action isn’t taken. Follow our guidance to thaw frozen pipes in and around your home:

  1. turn off your internal stop tap to prevent pressure from building up
  2. partly turn on any affected taps to relieve pressure
  3. thaw the frozen pipe using a hot water bottle and warm towels
  4. once thawed, turn your water supply back on.

Watch our tutorial video for a step-by-step guide on how to thaw frozen pipes.

How to deal with burst pipes

If you are experiencing water pressure or flow issues, a pipe may have burst in your home. You may also notice damp patches on your walls, ceilings or floor.

Here’s what you need to do if you experience a burst:

1. Turn off your internal stop tap

Shut off your water supply by turning your stop tap clockwise. In most homes they can be found underneath the sink.

2. Flush toilets and turn on taps

Flush your toilets and turn on all your cold taps to drain the water that is left in your pipes. This will limit the amount of water that enters your home.

3. Clean up the escaped water

Use a mop, bucket and towels to soak up and collect as much of the escaped water as possible, while also moving any items or pieces of furniture out of harm’s way.

4. Turn off your power

If there is a chance the water has reached your electrics, turn off your power at the mains and don’t turn them back on until they have been checked by a qualified electrician.

5. Contact your insurance company

Take photos of the damage and find receipts for any damaged items. When you have all the information you need, call your insurance company if your wish to make a claim.

6. Call a qualified plumber

Once you have cleaned up the mess and taken all the necessary safety precautions, you should contact a qualified plumber to come and repair the burst. You can find local approved plumbers at www.watersafe.org.uk

7. Clear up

Finally, clear up the mess you’re left with. You may have to strip out furniture and other items from your home. You could always contact a professional to do this for you.

How to avoid frozen pipes

There are a number of ways to prevent both frozen and burst pipes. Here are our top tips to keep your pipes warm during cold spells:

1. Apply insulation to pipes and water tanks

Pipes and water tanks which are exposed to the cold are more likely to freeze. Apply lagging, which is a foam material that can be found in most DIY and hardware shops, to these pipes. Make sure there are no gaps at the bends and valves!

2. Open attic and cabinet doors

Occasionally, turn your heating on and open your cabinet and attic doors to allow warm air to circulate around the pipes in these areas of your home. Leaving your interior doors open will also help warm air to circulate around your home more effectively.

3. Fix air leaks

Cold air can circulate around your pipes if they are left exposed. By sealing up any cracks, holes or gaps in your walls, doors and floorboards, you can prevent cold air from reaching your pipes. Use foam tape or caulk to fill these gaps and holes.

4. Apply heating tape

Heating tape can come in handy if you have a section of pipe which is prone to freezing by helping it to retain heat. There are two types of electrical heating tape: self-monitoring and manual. It’s important you follow the product’s instructions for safety purposes.

5. Leave your heating on when away

If you go on holiday during winter, leave your heating on while you’re away. Setting your thermostat to around 10°C should do the job. You could also put it on a timer so that it only comes on a couple of times during the day to save energy and money.

6. Drain your water system

If you’re going away for a prolonged period of time, it could be worth draining your water system to remove all the water from your pipes. This will make sure frozen water can’t cause a burst while you’re away. If you do this, save the water for another day!

7. Keep garage doors shut

In some cases, water supply pipes can be found in garages and outbuildings. To stop these pipes from freezing, you should keep your garage doors shut when cold weather is expected.

More information about how to prepare your home and garden for winter can be found in this blog post.

Written by

Tom Thomson

Junior Content Writer

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