Protecting your water pipes against frost

Updated: 21 May 2018
Insulate your loft properly
Roof space insulation
If you own your own home you are responsible for the pipework within your property. Looking after your pipes can help prevent damage occurring. This will help avoid inconvenient and often costly repair jobs.

Here are some things you can do before winter sets in:

  • Insulate water tanks and pipes in unheated areas like lofts, roof spaces, garages, and outbuildings
  • Fix dripping taps - a gentle trickle of water can freeze and completely block the pipe
  • Check where internal stop tap/valve is located - usually under the kitchen sink
  • Keep your boiler well serviced to keep the house heated
  • Make sure doors and windows from unheated parts of your property are kept closed and minimise any draughts from outside
  • Open the trap door into the roof space to allow some of the warm air to circulate in the roof space
  • Leave the heating on low if you are away from home and leave a key with a neighbour, friend or family who can check the house regularly for frozen pipes
  • Write down the name and contact details for a number of registered plumbers in your area.

Dealing with frozen pipes:

  • Turn water supply off at the stop tap/valve
  • Thaw along the pipe starting from the end nearest the tap
  • Put hot water bottles or a thick cloth soaked in hot water over the frozen pipe or use and electric hairdryer at its lowest setting to thaw pipes - be careful not to warn them too quickly or they may burst
  • Don't use a blow lamp or any naked flame
  • Don't leave taps dripping or running. The water may not flush down the plug hole if the pipes below are frozen.

If a pipe does burst:

  • Turn off the stop tap/valve (see finding your stopcock)
  • Try and block the escaping water with thick cloths like towels
  • Open all taps to reduce flooding
  • Call a plumber
  • Don't forget to turn off your taps once the problem is fixed!