Homeowners Warned of Frozen Water Pipes Risk

Homeowners are being warned by Yorkshire Water about the risk of water pipes freezing and cracking in their home as sub-zero temperatures take hold in an attempt to avoid a repeat of the severe winter of 2010, when insurers handled 3,500 claims per day for burst water pipes.

The average cost to repair a burst pipe in the home is £6,500 to £7,500, which has led to Yorkshire Water and the Association of British Insurers (ABI) joining forces to raise awareness of simple steps that can be taken, such as insulating water pipes, to avoid an expensive repair bill.

We receive hundreds of calls from customers every winter who are unsure which water pipes they have a duty of care for. Rules state that the cost of repairing a damaged pipe is with the customer if it is located within the boundary of the home.

David Stevenson, Head of Water Distribution, said: “Icy and freezing weather like that currently being experienced make customers household pipes really vulnerable to cracks and bursts. Not only are these expensive to resolve but also incredibly upsetting – causing significant damage to people’s homes.

“That’s why we really want to get the message out there about the simple steps people can take to protect themselves over the winter and what to do if the worst case scenario does happen.”

Mark Shepherd, Manager for General Insurance at the ABI, said: "When freezing weather arrives so do frozen and burst pipes. Yet taking a few simple precautions, especially if you plan to be away during the winter, will greatly reduce the risk of returning home to problems.

"The ABI advises households to ensure loft pipes and tanks are insulated, check their stopcock works and keep their home as warm as possible if they are going away. Home insurance will pay for the often considerable damage caused by burst pipes, but it cannot compensate for the misery and inconvenience that they bring."

Simple preventative measures to protect water pipes in the home include:

- Spot the potential problem areas – Keep an eye out for any pipework and taps that might be exposed to freezing temperatures.
- Protect your pipes and taps - After identifying the pipes and taps most at risk, wrap them in lagging. Cut a piece of foam insulation to length and clip it on.
- Keep your central heating ticking over - Heating a home is expensive, but so is a burst pipe. If you can, leave the heating on constantly at a low temperature. If severe weather is forecast, set the heating to your usual level day and night.
- Get to grips with your stop tap - If the worst happens (your pipes freeze and then burst), shutting off the stop tap is the first thing you'll need to do. In most homes you'll find the stop tap under the kitchen sink, but it could be located in a cellar, garage or outbuilding. Label your stop tap once you've found it and check it works regularly. Make sure the tap turns freely and shuts off fully.
- If the worst happens, don't use central heating to thaw out - Turn off your stop tap and check for dripping water and split pipes. If there aren't any leaks, turn your stop tap back on and open a tap inside the house, for example the kitchen tap. Use a hairdryer to gently melt the ice in the direction of the flow of water and never use a naked flame. If after thawing you find a pipe has burst, turn off your stop tap immediately and contact a plumber. You can find a local approved plumber at watersafe.org.uk.