How to Avoid a Burst Pipe Nightmare this Winter

With Christmas edging ever closer, UK plumbing register WaterSafe is partnering with the Met Office to share advice with property-owners on being prepared to deal with the winter worry of burst water pipes – as well as how to prevent them.

Water which freezes inside pipes can expand, causing a build-up of pressure that can make them split and burst.

The damage caused by burst pipes can cost thousands of pounds to repair – as well as leaving a property without water for drinking, cooking and washing.

However, the latest figures from WaterSafe’s annual survey* of UK homeowners reveals that over half of respondents (53%) don’t know what to do if a pipe bursts due to cold weather.

That’s why WaterSafe is sharing these five essential steps:

  • Turn off the water supply coming into your property at the stop tap and switch off your boiler.
  • Open all your taps to drain the system as quickly as possible, saving some water in a bucket for flushing toilets and hand washing. When the water stops running, turn all the taps off.
  • Soak up escaping water with towels to limit the damage.
  • Call a WaterSafe approved plumber who is qualified to work on the plumbing system in your home.
  • If water has leaked near your electrics, do not touch them and switch them off at the fuse box.

The WaterSafe survey showed that across the UK, of those with some knowledge of what to do if a pipe bursts, 60% of people know to turn off their stop tap and 40% would call a plumber – but only 2% highlighted draining the system as an important action to minimise damage.

Property owners will usually find their internal stop tap under the kitchen sink, but it can also be found under the stairs or in garages, utility rooms, cellars or downstairs toilets. It’s a good idea to make sure the stop tap is working – and to check it every six months for peace of mind.

It’s important to let your home insurance company know about your burst pipe as soon as possible, who will advise you on what to do next.

To avoid burst pipes in the first place, wrap up pipework in any unheated areas, such as lofts, utility rooms and garages, with insulating lagging, to prevent it from freezing. Make sure there are no gaps at bends, valves or fittings. Leave the heating on low if you are away.

WaterSafe’s advice supports the Met Office’s ‘WeatherReady’ campaign, which encourages everyone to think about what they can do to prepare for and cope with severe weather.

Will Lang, Head of Civil Contingencies at the Met Office, said: “WeatherReady is an initiative to encourage everyone to help our families, neighbours and communities to take small steps to avoid the problems caused by freeze-thaw.

“Severe winter weather can cause damage and worry for everyone so it is important to do what we can to mitigate the impacts of it, including following expert advice from WaterSafe to protect your plumbing.”

Julie Spinks, Director of WaterSafe, said: “It’s really important to know what to do in a burst pipe emergency, which can cause devastating and costly damage.

“Taking time this winter to locate and check your stop tap and have a qualified, approved plumber’s details to hand means one less thing to worry about.

“However, prevention is key, which is why we’re asking everyone to wrap up exposed pipes now to avoid a catastrophe this winter.”

For lots more winter advice and to find a qualified, approved plumber to help visit watersafe.org.uk/winter.

Find out more about the #WeatherReady campaign, which is run by the Met Office in partnership with the Cabinet Office, at metoffice.gov.uk/weatherready.

*WaterSafe interviewed 2,000 UK homeowners in November 2021

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