A guide to preventing burst pipes

Man fits pipes with lagging
Lagging - an essential life skill
"a singular burst pipe can cause horrific damage to your home"
  • | by Kristian Dando

If you’ve never suffered having your home’s water pipes burst, then trust us, it’s not an experience that you’ll want to go through.

The average cost of damage caused by burst pipes was around £8,000 in 2010, with one major insurer reporting six times more freezing weather related claims than usual during the so-called 'big freeze' of several years ago.

Burst pipes are caused by water in them freezing and expanding, so when the mercury drops it’s important that you don’t let this happen. Having a burst water pipe doesn’t mean just a bit of damp – a singular burst pipe can cause horrific damage to your home.

A pipe bursting in your attic can lead to your whole house being flooded, meaning that you’ll have to vacate your home for potentially months while it dries out, and deal with all your possessions being ruined. "Prevention is better than a cure" goes the old adage, and it's certainly the case when it comes to your pipes...

Don’t lag behind

Lagging – the material which provides insulation for your pipes - is vital for non-freezing pipes. So make sure that yours is in good nick.

Make sure that your pipes insulation is above the pipe, and not below. Heat largely escapes vertically upwards, so insulation on the bottom of the pipes won’t have much benefit. Meanwhile, make sure that water tanks and the toilet cisterns are cosily wrapped up in insulating jackets.

When you’re not there…

If you’re away for a few days, have a think about leaving the heating on constantly while you’re away. It doesn’t have to be on full blast – a low temperature should be fine.

It might seem like throwing money down the toilet, particularly in light of the recent increases in pricing announced by Britain’s energy suppliers, but it could be the difference between a safe, dry home on your return and a sodden mess.

If you don’t fancy keeping your heating on while you’re away, make sure you’ve got it set to come on at least twice a day. Open the hatch of your loft so the warm air can circulate around, and get somebody to check your gaff while you’re away.

Inspect your 'cock

Your stop cock, that is. This is the mechanism which will completely shut the water supply off in the event of a flood.

If you don’t know where it is, find it now (it’s probably lurking underneath your kitchen sink) and make sure that it turns on and off. You don’t want to be fumbling aimlessly around and trying to locate it in the event of an unexpected bout of gushing.

In case of the worst...

Most good home insurance policies include cover for damage to the structure and fittings of your home and your contents, and should give you alternative accommodation if you have to move out because of a flood.