Burst and frozen pipe advice

If pipes become frozen, water flow will be reduced or stop completely — this is the time when pipes are most likely to burst.

Top tips to prevent burst pipes

If premises are left empty in times of freezing conditions there is a major risk of water pipes freezing.

  • Fix dripping taps as a gentle trickle of water can freeze and completely block the drainpipe.
  • Get a frost stat fitted to your central heating system in cold areas where pipes are vulnerable, this will automatically switch your heating on when the temperature falls below the set level.
  • If the premises will be empty for long periods make sure the central heating is left on 24 hours a day at around 15 degrees C — with windows and doors closed.
  • If there is an extended period of unoccupancy i.e. more than 14 days, the mains stopcock in the building should be turned off and the water system should be drained completely.
  • For extra protection, consider putting fibreglass at least 6 inches (150mm) thick or non-combustible granules in any loft area and have all the pipes and tanks lagged by a professional.

What to do if a pipe freezes

  • Turn off the water supply at the main stopcock.
  • Turn up the heating to a minimum of 20 degrees C and ensure any loft trap hatch is wide open. A fan heater could also be placed in the loft to push hot air around the loft position it carefully and ensure it is checked regularly.
  • In freezing conditions, if the heating fails or makes strange noises then it could be that the heating pipes are freezing. If so, turn off the boiler and call a plumber.

What to do if a pipe bursts:

  • Turn off the water supply at the mains stopcock. If the burst pipe is from a storage tank, the tank stop valve should also be turned off.
  • Turn on the cold tap in the washrooms and kitchen etc. as this will drain the tanks as quickly as possible.
  • Turn off the central heating and any water heaters and remove or protect any items that will be affected by a burst pipe.
  • If water starts to seep through the ceiling collect it in buckets. If the ceiling begins to bulge, pierce through the plaster with a wooden broom handle or wooden stick.

Minimising the disruption:

  • When salvaging important paperwork, remove excess water and keep it tightly bundled together to dry naturally. Do not expose them to extreme levels of heat as this could damage them further.