Top tips to freeze out winter plumbing problems

  • WRAS and the Association of British Insurers lift the lid on the best way to prepare your home for winter and avoid plumbing problems
  • Insurers paid out £2.2m a day to customers whose home has had a water leak in 2019

 With winter infull swing, the weather outside might be frightful, so you should take steps toavoid any frightening, unplanned plumbing repair costs and insurance excesses.

The Water Regulations Advisory Scheme (WRAS) has partnered with the Association of British Insurers (ABI) to reveal trends in winter plumbing-related insurance claims and share valuable tips on how to prepare your home for winter.

Burst pipes are common causes of weather-related home insurance claims, in 2018 – the year of the “Beast from the East” - they accounted for over 50% of weather-related claims. The cold weather can cause a pipe to burst due to water in the pipes freezing, expanding and breaking the pipe.

Taking a few simple steps can help avoid the stress caused by frozen and burst water pipes – which can cause flooding, thousands of pounds worth of damage and leave properties without water for drinking, cooking and washing. Homeowners can take action, including:

  • STOP TAP: Locate the stop tap and check it is in working order – if a pipe freezes and bursts in your home you need to be able to shut off the water supply quickly. Make sure that the stop tap is fully operational, as they are prone to become stiff or seize over time. You can do this by gently opening it every six months but remember to turn it back half a turn after fully opening to prevent it seizing.
  • INSULATION: Making sure pipes and cisterns are properly insulated is one of the simplest and most inexpensive things that can be done to help protect a property from the cold. This is even more important in areas which are not heated, like utility rooms and lofts. Take particular care to make sure that there are no gaps in the insulation at bends, valves or fittings, as even a small gap can let the frost in.
  • REPAIR: Repair any leaky taps or valves – it is a myth that running water does not freeze, as water is more likely to freeze in the sink or drain and cause it to block and then spill over causing damage -  and it saves water too
  • HEATING: Warmth is the best defence against frozen pipes, so when people are away or the property is not being used, leaving the heating on low or having it come on couple of times a day helps keep a minimum level of heat to help keep the cold at bay.
    • If the property will be empty, either:
      • leave the heating on low – about 14 degrees centigrade
      • if the building is going to be empty for a while, turn off the water supply and drain the system
  • APPROVED PLUMBER: Keep the name of a plumber handy – type in your postcode at to find your nearest approved plumbing business

It really does pay to take a pro-active approach to maintaining properties and getting them ‘winter ready’, as last year the average repair cost £2,724 with almost 800 people making a claim each day.

Sarah Brodie policy advisor, Association of British Insurers said: “We’re pleased to be working with WRAS to highlight the simple steps that can be taken to minimise the chances of a burst pipe this winter. Water damage to a property is usually covered as a standard feature in building insurance policies. This damage is one of the most common types of domestic property damage claims, with insurers paying out £2.2 million for it every day.”

Julie Spinks, managing director of WRAS, said:“Each year we hear similar stories about the devastating impact cold weather can have on our homes and ultimately our finances too. Whether it’s the record-breaking cold snap or 2018’s unprecedented Beast from East, the UK weather is sure to hit the headlines but it needn’t hit your wallet too.

“Following some straightforward tips and being prepared for the colder weather is the best way to prevent weather-related plumbing issues. If you need help insulating pipes or fixing leaks, always use an approved, qualified plumber to ensure the job is done safely and in line with UK water fittings regulations.”

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