It is possible to prevent frozen pipes as temperatures plummet with simple preparation.

What causes frozen pipes to burst?

As water freezes, it expands inside the pipe, creating pressure. There are a number of factors that determine whether the pipe is strong enough to withstand pressure without buckling, including the volume of frozen water and its type, shape, and age.

It’s often preventable if you take a few simple precautions – and certainly worth the effort. An insurance claim for a burst pipe can cost around £7,500 during freezing weather, according to the Association of British Insurers (ABI).

Frozen pipes

What can I do to prevent my pipes from freezing?

Service your boiler

Your heating system will be most vulnerable to the cold if it isn’t working efficiently. It’s a good idea to have your boiler serviced every year – preferably in the summer. Preparing your pipes is essential to keeping your system prepared for winter.

Insulate your pipes

One of the best ways to prevent your pipes and water tanks from freezing is to insulate them. Most DIY stores sell inexpensive pipe lagging and tank jackets that can be fitted yourself for free. Be sure to check the tank and pipe measurements first.

Consider these key areas:

  • Outside pipework – such as heating drainpipes and overflow pipes. Remember to include bends, valves, and fittings as well as straight lengths of pipe. Make sure your outside taps are working as well. DIY stores should sell insulated tap covers.

  • Pipes in colder areas of your home – such as unfinished loft spaces, garages, and basements.

  • Water tanks – often overlooked, but they are a major source of pipe bursts during a cold snap. Basements, garages, and unused lofts are ideal places to insulate tanks.

Shut out cold air and encourage the flow of warm air

You can keep the chill off by opening the hatch during icy weather if you have pipes and tanks in unheated loft spaces.

To circulate air around pipes or tanks that are inside cupboards, open the doors.

If it’s frosty outside, you must make sure it doesn’t get too cold inside to prevent your pipes from freezing. Make sure your thermostat is set to at least 7°C, even if you’re not home. Be sure to keep your windows closed, seal draughty edges, and use draught excluders on your doors to block out any chilly breezes.

Leaking tap


Make sure the taps are not leaking

When it’s icy, leaving your tap dripping won’t keep your pipes from freezing. Leaky taps can cause your drains to freeze and water to back up into your sink, resulting in overflows.

Ensure that your taps are always turned off, and if they drip persistently, have them fixed.

Where is your stopcock?

The water flow to your home should be stopped if your pipes freeze.

In case of a leaky pipe, locate your stopcock, clear the area around it, and use it immediately.

If you’re going away, turn off the water

If you won’t be home for more than a few days, turn off your water at the stopcock. You might even want to drain the water from your system by running the taps until they’re empty. Don’t forget to close them again once you’re done.

In case you’re still worried about your pipework when the cold weather rolls in, here are a few signs to watch for:

  • Your taps or shower aren’t working or aren’t supplying enough water

  • Pipes that appear wet or frosty

  • When flushing the toilet or using the sink, you hear unusual sounds. A blocked pipe could cause bubbles or whistling sounds

  • Walls or ceilings with damp patches or rings.