How to deal with and avoid burst water pipes

With UK forecasters predicting that England will experience its first wintry showers and true cold snap in the coming weeks, it is important to protect your home.

One area of your house that is vulnerable to freezing conditions is your pipes, which can burst due to a prolonged period of thaw causing the pipe to expand and split.

Avoid burst water pipes this Christmas

Often water pipes will burst when your home is left empty for more than a couple of days, which could include a quick holiday break away or lengthy trip to the step-mothers for a Christmas meal.

The best way to negate returning to a soaked and ruined house when you return, it is important to leave the heating on a constant low temperature to stop the pipes freezing over. With ever-rising fuel and heating costs this may sound a costly exercise, but it is cheaper than having damaged pipes repaired after they crack.

Another way to get hot air circulated to the pipes is to leave the hatch to the loft open, allowing warm air to rise into the roof and the pipes present there.

However, the best and possibly most cost effective solution is to invest in some insulating foam from the local DIY store and ensure all pipes and tanks are properly insulated. Remember, the pipes in the loft, cupboards, under floors and in garages and other external buildings are most vulnerable to a cold snap.

If you are leaving home for a prolonged period, it is also a good idea to switch the water off so that if there is a leak, the damage to your possessions and furniture is minimal. You can shut off the water supply with your stopcock.

My pipes are frozen, what can I do?

It is unlikely you will notice the thaw setting in on your water pipes, and so when you discover the problem they may already be frozen.

If this has happened, turn off the water supply immediately and check for signs of cracks in the pipe-work. You can help undo the thaw process by putting warm cloths or hot water bottles on the suspect areas.

The best way to save the situation however is to simply call your local plumber who will have the expertise to save the situation with the right screws and nails for the job.

My pipes have burst!

Most people only realise the hard way when their pipes are in jeopardy, and that’s when they actually burst.

Turn off the water supply immediately at the stopcock, and turn on the cold taps to drain the system of water and minimise the damage.

Drain the hot water by turning off central heating systems and then running the hot taps. If the leak is near electrical appliances, move them away and turn off any nearby switches to avoid electric shocks.

Get buckets, towels and whatever else you can find to protect the floors and furniture, and then send an SOS call to your local plumber.


Arthur is a blogger and freelance journalist working in Manchester, UK. He writes about all things technology, DIY, sport and news. Follow him on Twitter @Ayup_Arthur.