Warning! Winter weather can cause burst pipes, with millions of pounds worth of damage to homes and businesses.

Follow our Cold Weather Code and have a lovely winter

Most of these bursts could easily be avoided with a few simple precautions. However, many people don’t think that the cold weather will affect them, or they don’t know what they should do to protect their homes.

Before The Cold Weather Arrives
  • Find your main stopcock and make sure you can turn it on and off. It will usually be somewhere on the ground floor of your home.
  • Repair any dripping taps.
  • Fully lag all pipes and tanks in the loft space, or anywhere else that may be liable to freeze.
  • Use pre-formed pipe insulation on all pipe runs. Check with your DIY store to see how thick this should be.
  • Wrap bends or hard-to-get-at pipes with securely fixed strips of insulation material.

Insulate the top and sides of tanks with one of the following:

  • a pre-formed plastic tank jacket filled with glass fibre matting
  • rigid polystyrene sheeting at least 25mm (1″ thick)
  • insulation matting 150mm (6″ thick)

NOTE: Do not insulate underneath any tank. If you place insulation material below any water tank, warm air will be unable to rise from the rooms below and keep it warm, and the tank is more likely to freeze. The only exception to this rule is header tanks (generally central heating header tanks) which are raised above the level of the joists in the roof space. These tanks should be completely enclosed in an insulating jacket. Every year check that your loft insulation is thick enough and still in good condition. Make sure it has not been damaged or disturbed since you last looked at it.

Make sure it is placed over any pipes which run between the joists. This will enclose them in the ‘insulation envelope’ of the house. If loft insulation material is placed under the pipes, no warm air will reach them from the rest of the house and they are more likely to freeze.

If Your Home Is Empty Overnight During Winter

Leave your heating on while you are away from home. In severe weather, or if severe weather is forecast, you should leave your heating on day and night at your usual temperature setting, especially if you are going to be away from home for any length of time. This will help prevent frozen pipes.

Open your loft trap door. This allows warm air from other parts of the house to circulate in the loft and will help to prevent the pipes freezing.

Ask a friend or relative to visit your home every day while you are away. This will mean that, if you do suffer a burst pipe, it will be detected as soon as possible, and the damage caused will be minimised.

If Pipes Or Tanks Are Frozen

Turn off the water at the main stopcock. If there is a stopcock fitted on the system side of the header tank (that is, to stop water leaving the tank) this should also be turned off. Do this even if you only suspect your pipes are frozen, since they could also have burst, and, by turning off the water, you will reduce the amount of water that can escape, thus minimising damage to your home.

Before you start to thaw the system, do what you can to protect or remove anything that might be damaged by thawing water running from the burst.

To Thaw The Pipe:
  • Use a hairdryer or hot water bottle – DO NOT USE A BLOW LAMP OR HEAT GUN.
  • Open the tap closest to the frozen part of the pipe.
  • Begin thawing the pipe from the tap side of the frozen area, by heating it gently, and work back towards the header tank.
  • If The Pipe Has Burst:
  • Turn off the water at the main supply stopcock.
  • Switch off the central heating and any other water heating installations, to avoid further damage, or even an explosion.
  • Open all your taps to drain the system.
  • If water is coming through the ceiling collect it in buckets. If the ceiling starts to bulge, pierce the plaster with a broom handle to let the water through.
  • Check if your wiring or any electrical appliances have been affected, DO NOT TOUCH THEM until a professional electrician has checked them. If in doubt, turn off your electricity at the mains.
  • Call in a professional plumber to make repairs. If your insurance company has an emergency help line, they should be able to help find a good local firm.
  • Contact your insurance company for further information on how to make a claim. If your home is so badly affected by water from the burst that you are unable to live there while repairs are carried out, your insurance policy will cover the cost of alternative accommodation until you are able to move back in.
Drying Out
  • Leave windows, doors and built-in cupboards open during the day if possible.
  • Keep affected rooms heated, but do not over-heat them, as this could result in further damage.
  • Store damaged items in a dry place, your insurer may want to inspect them.
Remember the Cold Weather Code