A burst pipe can cause damage to your home costing you £££'s
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Preparing your home for a sudden freeze
Before the temperature drops below zero and winter hits us, a quick check on the following can save you time and money.
1) Make sure pipes are lagged
All visible pipes, particularly exposed pipes in crawl spaces in the attic, should be lagged with pre-formed foam (the type that wraps around the pipes) available from plumbers’ merchants and DIY stores. Remember, the thicker the lagging, the better: a minimum of 50mm in diameter but preferably 75mm. When insulating bends and tricky-to-reach pipes use gaffa tape to fix it securely.
2) Make sure your tank is insulated
The best option is a preformed jacket that hugs the tank (a bit like the Puffa jackets from the 80s!) They’re filled with glass fibre matting and attach securely to the tank – this is important as you don’t want it to dislodge. With the exception of a header tank in the loft which should be completely enclosed, there should be no insulation beneath your tank as this will prevent warm air rising from below, increasing the likelihood of it freezing.
3) Repair dripping taps
If you have any dripping taps replace the washers. If dripping taps freeze they’ll block your pipe and cause damage.
How to deal with a frozen pipe
You’ll know if you have a frozen pipe because one or more of your taps won’t work but before you start on your frozen pipe action plan it’s worth first checking with the neighbours that they have water – if they don’t it’s likely there’s a problem with local supply.
Assuming you do have frozen pipes you need to:
1) Turn off the water supply
Turn off the water at the main stoptap, usually under the kitchen sink. Now turn off the stopcock in your cold water tank, usually in your loft. Doing this will minimise the amount of water that escapes (and the damage to your home) if one of the pipes has burst.
2) Protect your possessions
Next move or protect anything in your home that’s near to potentially eruptive pipework and cover your junction box.
3) Locate the freeze
If you’re not a confident DIYer now’s the time to call in a reputable plumber. If however you have a good basic knowledge of plumbing you can now attempt to locate the freeze and thaw it. Do this by checking the flow of water from all appliances – taps, toilets etc – throughout your home. Once you’ve narrowed down the area you suspect to be frozen, look for further clues, eg an unlagged section of pipework or draughts next to a pipe, feeling with your hands for areas that are noticeably colder to the touch.
4) Let the thaw commence
Now inspect the pipe and nearby fittings. If they are all intact you can gently thaw the affected area using a hair dryer or a hot water bottle. NEVER use a blowtorch or heat gun. If the pipe has split read below.
How to deal with a burst pipe
A burst pipe can cause serious damage to the structure and wiring of your home so take action immediately:
1) Turn off the water supply
2) Drain the system
Turn on all your cold taps and flush your toilets.
3) Turn off heating
Switch off central heating, immersions and other heating installations. If your heating uses solid fuel let it die out. Once the water heating has shut down, turn on the hot taps to further drain the system.
4) Turn off the electrics
If water from a burst pipe is leaking near any electrics, switch off the mains but if the mains switch is wet DON’T TOUCH IT! Call in a qualified electrician instead.
5) Collect the water
If the leak is small you can mop it up using towels but you’ll need buckets if it’s coming through the ceiling. If the ceiling starts to bulge stand well out of the way and pierce the plaster with a long screwdriver or a broom handle.
6) Fix the leak
If you’re unqualified or unconfident, now’s the time to call in the professionals and also your insurance company if there’s significant damage. Being prepared by having a Leak Mate Tool, you can stop the leak from the burst pipe, with no need for the late night call out.