Let it Flow – Three Essential Steps if your Building Has a FROZEN Water Pipe

UK plumbing register WaterSafe is sharing advice with owners, landlords and managers of businesses and non-domestic buildings on dealing with frozen water pipes – as well as how to prevent them in the first place.

As temperatures are set to fall heading in to February, insulating exposed pipes now will help prevent leaks and the costly damage that can result from pipework freezing and bursting this winter. 

However, if a pipe freezes, make sure to follow our trio of top tips:

  • Turn off the water supply coming in to your property at the stop tap.
  • Open all your taps to drain the system as quickly as possible, saving some water in a bucket, if you can, for flushing toilets and hand washing. When the water stops running, turn all the taps off.
  • Slowly thaw the pipe with towels soaked in hot water or hot water bottles – never use a naked flame or blowtorch to thaw the pipe. If you need help, contact an approved plumber via our post code search.

WaterSafe’s latest UK survey of those responsible for non-domestic buildings*, such as offices, community centres, shops and public sector buildings, reveals that 64% don’t check that they know where their internal stop tap is, in case they need to turn off their water in an emergency.

In most properties, the main internal stop tap is located close to where the water pipe enters the building. This could be under the kitchen sink, if your property has one, and can also be found in downstairs bathrooms, kitchen cupboards, garages, cellars and under stairs.

It’s a good idea to regularly check that the stop tap is working and that it shuts your water supply off – but make sure to never force it. Turning the valve clockwise will close it, reducing or stopping the amount of water passing through your pipes.

To avoid pipes freezing in the first place, insulate pipes in unheated areas, such as roofs, garages and outbuildings with inexpensive ‘lagging’, which is available from DIY stores. This is especially important for boiler condensate pipes, which run from a boiler to the outside of a building, normally to a drain.

Ensure there are no gaps at bends, valves or fittings, and don’t forget to insulate the hot water tank and pipes too.

Reducing heat loss means playing an important role in helping the UK reduce its carbon footprint as well as spending less money on energy bills – something to consider as energy costs increase.

It’s also important to repair leaky taps and valves to prevent frost damage and to save water too.

Around a third of all the water supplied in the UK goes on non-domestic uses, such as by businesses, schools, hotels, shops and gyms, with non-domestic water use responsible for generating 28 million kg of CO2 emissions every month.

Call a WaterSafe approved plumber, who is qualified to install and maintain plumbing systems, if you need help this winter with frozen pipes, locating your stop tap, insulating your pipes or fixing leaks.

Insurance underwriters are paying more attention to escape of water claims following pipes freezing and bursting, so for commercial premises, it’s a good idea to check for any specific insurance provisions.

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.

Julie Spinks, Director of WaterSafe, said: “Making sure exposed pipes are wrapped up and protected from winter weather should be on every business’s New Year’s resolutions list.

“Having the phone number of a qualified, approved plumber to hand in case of emergencies is also a good idea. Our survey showed that just over a third (38%) of those responsible for a building and its users in the UK do this though – so we’re encouraging everyone to check the WaterSafe database to find your nearest.”

For lots more winter advice and to find a qualified, approved plumber, 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 www.metoffice.gov.uk/weatherready.

*WaterSafe interviewed 500 non-household building owners and managers in December 2021.

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