RSS Feed

Related Articles

Related Categories

Protect your pipes as cold weather bites

21st December 2009 Print

Homeowners are being warned of the dangers of burst pipes caused by freezing water as Aviva reveals it saw a 500% increase in water damage claims during the plummeting temperatures last winter.

Early January 2009 saw some of the coldest temperatures in years and this led to a surge in claims for water-soaked homes - the majority for burst pipes or tanks in the loft.

Just one burst pipe in the loft can mean water gushing through your property ruining furnishings and belongings along the way and in same cases bringing ceilings down. For the homeowner this can mean months of disruption while their house is dried out and repaired.

The severity of the damage last winter was also greater than previous years as the freeze occurred at the end of the Christmas holidays. So many homes were empty when the pipes burst and leaks were not identified until days later.

Damage caused by freezing water and leaking or "escaping" water from tanks, pipes, or heating systems is covered as standard under most contents and buildings insurance policies. Water freezing in tanks is also usually covered under buildings insurance.

Greg Gladwell, director of household claims at Aviva, advises homeowners to follow some simple tips if temperatures plummet.

"Last winter we had some of the iciest temperatures in years and for some a relaxing Christmas break was ruined as they returned to a drenched home. Because it is quite rare to have such cold snaps many homeowners forget that freezing and burst pipes can be a real problem - in some cases ruining entire floors of your home. The risk can be worse in traditional properties without modern heating systems or properly insulated pipes.

"And when homes are left empty, burst or leaking pipes often aren't discovered for many days and so damage can get progressively worse.

"So be particularly aware if you are planning a week in the sun or on the slopes for Christmas or New Year. The problem starts when the thaw begins so make sure you have someone who can check on your home regularly and in particular when temperatures start to rise again, that way any leaks can be spotted early and stopped.

"And remember to leave keep your central heating on low so that warm air can circulate throughout the house."


Lots of lagging
One of the main causes of freezing pipes is lack of lagging - so anyone attempting to do a bit of plumbing themselves, should bear in mind that pipes and tanks in the loft, or anywhere else liable to freeze, need to be properly lagged.

Insulate on top of pipes
Insulation should be laid on top of pipes rather than underneath them, as insulation laid below the pipes will prevent rising heat reaching them.  Wrap up water tanks, cisterns and boilers in insulating jackets.

Home alone
If you are going away for a few days or weeks - leave heating on at a constant low level 24 hours a day if you are away, this means that water in pipes will remain constant temperature and should not get cold enough to freeze. Also remember to remove the hatch to your loft so that warm air can circulate.

(This may appear environmentally unfriendly or a little extravagant during these economic conditions, but it might mean the difference between a ruined home or a dry one when you return from your break)

Find the stop cock
Before cold weather arrives, find your main stop cock and make sure you can turn it on or off. It's generally found underneath your kitchen sink. There should also be an access point for a stop cock outside your home (normally near your driveway) so if all else fails you can turn off the supply there.

Check the taps
Repair any dripping taps and don't forget to insulate outside taps in your garden or garage (or turn off the water supply to them altogether).

Tell your insurer
If you are planning a longer holiday over the winter period make sure you tell your insurer. Most standard policies don't cover you for standard perils like escape of water, burglary and theft if your home is unoccupied or unfurnished for more than 30 days in a row.

If the worst happens:

If pipes have burst turn off the water at the main stop cock - by turning off the water you will reduce the amount of water which can escape and so minimise damage to your home. Switch off central heating and any other water heating installations at the same time to avoid further damage and open all taps to drain the system. Call an expert and then call your insurer.
Home Emergency Cover

Consider taking out additional Home Emergency Cover - This will cover you for emergency water, heating and service problems, like blocked or leaky pipes, blocked loos, repairs to boilers, emergency locksmiths. So it will pay for plumbers or the applicable tradesman.

So while your home insurance will cover you for the damage caused by the burst pipe, it will not pay to have the problem fixed. The HEC will pay to get the problem fixed or repaired.

Repairs are covered up to a value of £500, and emergency situations covered include:

Loss of your main source of heating or hot water
Blocked toilet waste pipes
Blocked drains
Plumbing problems such as leaking pipes, water tanks or leaking radiators
Sudden and unexpected roofing problems

Plus there is no excess to pay for any home emergency cover claims.