Prevent burst and frozen pipes in winter

Temperatures can drop to extremely low levels during winter, causing the pipes in your home to freeze and sometimes even burst. This can wreak havoc on your home and its contents.

In this article you can find out how to avoid the damage and hassle caused by burst and frozen pipes, as well as the most common reasons why pipes burst and freeze.

Why do pipes freeze?

During cold weather, the pipes in your home may freeze for a number of reasons. Here are the most common causes of frozen pipes:

  • Poorly protected pipes, which haven't been sufficiently insulated.
  • Exposure to icy draughts, usually as a result of cracks or gaps at the point where the pipe enters your home.
  • Pipes located inside cupboards. Warm air from inside your home may not reach these pipes if your cupboard doors are closed most of the time.

Why do pipes burst?

It may surprise you to know that pipes don’t usually burst at the spot where an ice blockage occurs. Find out what causes pipes to burst during cold weather.

  1. Water freezes and expands inside your household pipes.
  2. Continual freezing and expansion of water inside the pipe causes pressure to build up between the ice blockage and the closed faucet.
  3. As a result of repeated pressure on this section of pipe, the pipe eventually bursts.

How to prevent frozen pipes

To ensure that water flows freely through your pipes this winter, take a look at our simple winter care tips to prevent frozen pipes in your home.

  • Get insulated
    Insulate your loft and the sides of your water tanks. To prevent your pipes bursting, wrap them in lagging (a foam material that insulates and reinforces them). You'll be able to buy this from most DIY stores.
  • Keep out the cold
    Most modern boilers have a frost protection thermostat which turns on automatically if the temperature drops to a level that will cause your pipes to freeze. Check that this is working properly. As added protection, it's a good idea to open your loft trap door and any sink cupboards on cold days, to let in heat.

    In very cold weather, you'll need to leave your heating on a low setting (or set it to come on a couple of times a day), especially if you're going on holiday for longer than a day or two.

  • Find your stopcock
    Make sure you know where your home's stopcock is. Check regularly that you can turn it off easily in an emergency. You may find it helpful to label the stopcock, so you can easily locate it if you're in a panic.
  • Check pipes regularly
    If you're going away for a while, ask a friend or relative to check your home regularly to make sure that your pipes haven't burst or frozen. You can always repay the favour when they next go on holiday.
  • Maintenance is key
    Make sure to re-washer any dripping taps; if they freeze, they'll block your pipes.

If your pipes do freeze

Dealing with frozen or burst pipes can be a tricky business. In the event that your pipes do freeze or burst this winter, there are a number of steps you’ll need to take to sort out the problem quickly and safely.

For further information, take a look at our article about dealing with frozen and burst pipes.

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