How to avoid and treat frozen pipes
A little prep work can help prevent frozen pipes as temperatures plummet. Try our tips to keep your pipes running freely, or watch our video to find out what to do if you think yours are already frozen.
Why do frozen pipes sometimes burst?
Water expands as it freezes, pressurising the pipe from the inside out. Whether the pipe is strong enough to withstand the pressure without buckling comes down to the volume of water that’s frozen, the type, shape and age of the pipe, and whether corrosion was already present.
The good news is that with a few simple precautions, it’s often preventable – and definitely worth the time. The Association of British Insurers (ABI) estimates that the cost of insurance claims for a burst pipe can rise to around £7,500 during freezing weather.
So how can I stop my pipes freezing?
Have your boiler serviced
If your heating isn’t working efficiently, the cold spots in your system will be most vulnerable to the cold. So it’s a good idea to have your boiler serviced every year – preferably during the warmer months. It’s the best way to prep your pipes and keep your system ready for everything winter has in store.
Insulating your pipes and water tanks is one of the best ways to prevent them from freezing. You can buy inexpensive pipe lagging and tank jackets from most DIY stores and fit them yourself for free. Just make sure you check the pipe and tank measurements first.
Then focus on these key areas:
- Outside pipework – such as heating drainpipes and overflow pipes. As well as straight lengths of pipe, remember to cover bends, valves and fittings too. And don’t forget your outside taps. You should find insulated tap covers at your local DIY store
- Pipes in colder areas of your home – like unused loft spaces, garages and basements
- Water tanks – often forgotten, but they’re one of the main problem areas during a cold snap – and a leading cause of burst pipes. Be sure to insulate tanks in colder areas, such as basements, garages and unused lofts.
Encourage warm air flow and shut out the cold
If you have pipes and tanks in unheated loft spaces, open the hatch during icy weather to allow the warm air from downstairs to rise and keep the chill off.
If some of your pipes or tanks are inside cupboards, open the cupboard doors so the air from warmer parts of your home can circulate around them.
When it’s frosty outside, you need to make sure it doesn’t get too cold inside to stop your pipes from freezing. We recommend keeping your thermostat set to at least 7°C - even if you’re not at home. The Hive Thermostat has a built-in Frost Protection feature which automatically turns your heating on if the temperature drops below 7°C.
Block out any chilly breezes by keeping windows closed, sealing draughty edges and using draught excluders on doors.
Fix leaking taps
It’s a myth that leaving your tap dripping when it’s icy can stop your pipes from freezing up. In fact, leaky taps can cause your drains to freeze and water to back up to your sink, leading to an overflow.
So make sure that your taps are always fully off and have them fixed if they’re persistent drippers.
Know where your stopcock is
It’s essential that you know how to stop the water flow to your home in case your pipes freeze.
Somake sure you know where your stopcock is, clear the area around it for easy access, and use it immediately if you spot a leaky pipe.
Turn off the water if you’re going away
It’s worth turning your water off at the stopcock if you’re not going to be home for more than a few days. It might even be worth draining the water in your system by running the taps until they’re empty. Just remember to close them again once you’ve finished.
If you’re still worried about your pipework when the cold weather rolls in, here are a few tell-tale signs to look out for:
- Little or no water coming from your taps or shower
- Exposed pipes that appear frosty or wet
- Unusual noises coming from your system when you flush the toilet or use your sink. Bubbling or whistling sounds could be a sign of air trying to escape your pipes through a blockage
- Damp patches or rings on walls or ceilings.
And don’t forget, boiler cover that includes a service each year – like our very own HomeCare – could pick up any minor niggles or major faults ahead of the colder months, and keep your boiler in perfect working order during the busiest time of the year.
How to avoid frozen pipes and keep things flowing
Try our tactics to prevent your pipes from freezing in the first place. And follow our step-by-step advice on how to handle it if they do to avoid a burst pipe.
Get your central heating working again
Find out what to do if your central heating has stopped working.
No hot water?
If your tap’s running cold, try our troubleshooting checklist to get things flowing again.