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Frozen and burst pipes: how to prevent and deal with them

As temperatures drop during the winter months, your home's water pipes are at risk of freezing. When water freezes, it expands and causes the pipes to crack and burst under the increased pressure.

Escape of water is largely caused by pipes bursting in freezing temperatures, and is one of the main reasons for home insurance claims. Association of British Insurers (ABI) data shows that in the first nine months of 2017, escape of water claims in homes cost £483 million, up 24% compared with the same period in 2014.

To prevent you having to deal with a water emergency this winter, here are some top tips.

How to protect your pipes

Make sure they're well insulated

As Water UK explains, you must make sure your water tanks and lag pipes are suitably insulated, paying particular attention to exposed pipes and tanks as well as pipes in unheated areas, like the loft. Look for gaps at the valves, fittings or bends and cover them if needed – lagging material is sold at most DIY stores.

Open the hatch

Do you have tanks or pipes in the loft? If so, you can prevent them freezing over by opening up the loft hatch to let warmer air flow through the space.

Locate your stopcock

If you don't already know, find out where your stopcock is and make sure you can easily turn it off in the event of a frozen or burst pipe. Most are found under the kitchen sink and you can close it by turning it clockwise.

Leave the heating on when away

If you've got a trip planned for winter, leave your heating on low and have a friend or trusted neighbour check in every now and again. If your property is going to be empty for a long period of time, you should think about turning off the water and the stopcock and draining the system so there's no water in the pipes.

What to do if your pipes freeze or burst

  • Switch off the water supply at the stopcock
  • Inspect the pipe to see if it's burst
  • Slowly thaw the pipe using a towel soaked in hot water or hot water bottles, starting closest to the tap. You can also use a hairdryer on its lowest setting but NEVER a naked flame.

If a pipe has burst, you need to:

  • Turn off the supply from the stopcock
  • Open all taps to limit flooding
  • Use thick towels to soak up and block water
  • Contact a qualified plumber
  • Switch off taps once the pipe is repaired to prevent further flooding.

If it's an emergency, you can find a local, approved plumber using the WaterSafe website. If you find a frozen or burst pipe outside the boundary of your home, you should get in contact with your water company – find your supplier here.

Home insurance with Hastings Direct

Taking out quality buildings and contents cover will protect you financially if your home is affected by burst pipes or escape of water. If you take out a quality, combined home insurance policy with Hastings Direct you could save up to 20% on your premium – get a quote today.

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