How to deal with a frozen or burst pipe this winter

Would you know what to do in the event of a frozen or burst pipe? As beautiful as a cold, frosty morning is, a sudden drop in temperature can wreak havoc on your home’s plumbing. In this blog, we look at how to prevent your pipes from freezing and how to deal with it if it does happen. 

What causes frozen pipes?

The pipes in and around your home generally have a little water resting in them all of the time. When the temperature outside drops, this water is an easy target for frost.

When the water freezes, it changes from a liquid to a solid. This expansion is what causes your pipes to burst. It’s difficult to tell how much damage has been caused until the frozen pipes have thawed.

If you live in a particularly cold area of the country and have pipes exposed to the elements, you will likely experience a problem with frozen pipes or a burst pipe at some point.

How do I know if I have frozen pipes?

One of the first indicators that you have a frozen pipe is a lack of water when you turn on a tap. Test all of the taps around your home. 

If you have pipes around the outside of your property that are exposed and have a visible frost, they will likely be frozen. 

When pipes are blocked with frozen water, there is nowhere for your waste water to go. Depending on the extent of the problem, you may also notice a smell coming from the drain in your sink.   

How can I prevent my pipes from freezing?

Frozen pipes are a nuisance, but prevention is better than trying to find a cure. Heat and insulation are the two most straightforward solutions to prevent your pipes from freezing. 

As tempting as it is to turn your heating off when you’re not home, you could be setting yourself up for a costly problem. If you want to avoid a burst pipe, ideally, you should set your thermostat to a low temperature so your heating will pop on as and when needed, keeping your pipes at a temperature that should help stop frost forming.

Insulation is key to reducing the risk of burst water pipes! You can purchase pipe insulation at a very low cost from any DIY shop, and it’s a must for any pipes in a location exposed to extremely low temperatures. You can also buy insulated covers for taps, adding another layer of protection at a low cost. 

What should I do with frozen pipes?

You can try and defrost them yourself, but if you’re worried about causing more harm than good, it may be best to call a plumber. They’re used to dealing with incidents like this, and whilst it may have a cost attached, it’s a small price to pay if it prevents a burst pipe.

Before you call them, check the extent of the problem by turning on the taps around your home. This will help you to assess how many pipes could be frozen. If you aren’t getting any water from several taps, it would suggest multiple pipes are frozen, and it’s best to get a professional to come and take a look. 

Next, try turning the heating on. Simply heating up the air in your home can help to thaw the pipework. Remember, this won’t extend to your garage, so you could use a portable heater to help in there.  

Though it may seem like a quick solution, don’t pour boiling hot water on frozen pipes. This is sure to make them burst! Using a hair dryer or warm cloth is a much better option. Keep applying this heat until you see the water flowing. 

What should I do if I have a burst pipe?

The first thing to do is turn off the water! It may not seem so important, but you should know where your stop tap is in case you ever need to turn off the water in an emergency. You never know when you’ll need it, and knowing where it is can save any more damage to your home. 

Make sure no electrics have been affected by the burst water pipes. If you think they have, the mains power should also be turned off whilst you wait for a professional to come and assess the damage.

Soak up as much water as you can using towels and buckets. This will help reduce further damage to your home and possessions. 

If you have home insurance, you’ll likely need to call them too. It will depend on your insurance policy as to what’s covered and what’s not. 

Don’t put off getting help if you think your pipes are frozen because a minor issue can soon become a big problem that affects your boiler. 

Want to know more about avoiding a burst pipe?

Arton Heating, based in Maidstone, Kent, is a local family-run business providing plumbing and heating services to the surrounding areas. We are well-equipped with over 35 years of experience, and our friendly Gas Safe registered engineers are qualified to help with anything from a burst pipe to a new boiler installation.  

We ensure our clients are kept well informed during any work and do all we can to minimise any disruption while we work. We know how important your home is to you, and we’ll help get things back to normal as soon as possible. 

If you found this useful, you might enjoy reading our post on how to prepare your boiler for winter.

Post author

Lee Wenham

Date of post

February 16, 2023


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