Preventing burst pipes

The cost and inconvenience caused by a burst pipe can be considerable. Just a small fracture can release gallons of water, damaging masonry and plaster, carpets and other contents. To avoid burst pipes and insurance claims there are several steps you can take.

How to prevent burst pipes

  • Make sure the boiler and heating system is serviced regularly and check that the thermostat is working correctly
  • Check the insulation on your water pipes and cold water tank - those in an attic or other vulnerable spaces should be lagged or similarly protected
  • Make sure any external taps are turned off and disconnect any hoses
  • Keep your heating on throughout the winter months.

What to do if you discover a frozen pipe

Fixing frozen pipes in particular can be costly as a claim caused by pipes bursting due to freezing is on average much more expensive than other escape of water claims.
If you discover a frozen pipe, don’t wait for it to burst. Turn off your water supply and then slowly thaw the affected pipe by introducing gentle heat to the area, such as with a hairdryer, heater or hot water bottle.
Do not attempt to thaw the pipe with a blow torch or other open flame.

How to stop a burst pipe

If a pipe does burst, the first and most important thing to is to turn off your water to prevent further damage.
Turn off the water supply at the stopcock, open taps in the property to safely release water from the system to drains, and try to catch any excess water in a bucket or other container. Do not use any electrics if you believe these may have been affected by the escaping water. You will need to get the electrics checked by a qualified and competent electrician for safety reasons.
Devices are available which can detect excessive water flow and either send a warning or automatically turn off the water. Leak detection systems are also available, which send a warning to a designated person enabling them to take appropriate action and hopefully mitigate any damage.

Some facts and top tips:

  • Leave the heating on low, at about 15oC to maintain a reasonable temperature to help prevent frozen pipes
  • Make sure any exposed pipes are insulated (think about cellars, attics and outbuildings)
  • Replace washers on any dripping taps
  • Locate and test your stopcock tap in case you need to turn the water off.

Is the building going to be empty for a period?

Empty properties are at greater risk of suffering damage from burst pipes. While the property is empty make sure you:
  • Turn off the water stopcock
  • Turn the taps on to drain the system of remaining water (remember to turn them off again afterwards)
  • Alternatively leave the heating on 15oC until you return.
Contact your insurance broker for further advice and support on preventing burst pipes and other risk management advice.