Dealing with ice and snow: preventing burst pipes

January and February mean one thing in England – the risk of snow. We might like the idea of an extra day off but snow and ice can play havoc when it comes to taking care of our properties.

At home, the real threat is a burst pipe brought about by cold weather freezing your pipes. Once water freezes, it expands inside the pipes which creates pressure between the ice and the closed faucet. As the pressure builds, it will reach breaching point and eventually burst, leaving you with a damaged wall, floor or even furniture. You could be left with damp insulation inside your walls causing a potential fire risk, flaky plaster on your outside walls or a mouldy carpet.

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If you suspect a blockage, I would advise calling in a professional plumber to help, as pipes don’t always burst in the same place as the blockage itself. Just in case, find out where your stop tap is so that you can quickly turn off the supply of water throughout your home should you need to.

As the saying goes however, prevention is always better than cure and there are steps that you can take to reduce the risk of your pipes bursting.

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Seal leaks and insulate pipes

Start off by looking for pipe leaks around the entry points to your home before the cold weather arrives. Seal any gaps with caulking or insulation and check that you have plenty of insulation surrounding the pipes in your loft and the sides of your water tank. By wrapping the pipes in thick lagging, you’ll keep them warm and water will be able to move through them freely. We rarely expect severe weather in England but should this change, it’s a good idea to let an outside tap drip warm water overnight to keep things moving.

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Let warm air circulate

Some pipes don’t need insulating like those found under sinks. Keep the freeze at bay by opening up your cupboard doors to let warm air reach the pipes. Although your loft should be insulated, opening up the loft hatch for an hour in the evening will also let warm air reach the uppermost part of your home and give your pipes extra protection.

Assess your heating system

Gain control over your heating system. Look to see if your boiler has a frost protection thermostat and test it to make sure that it’s working properly. This is your inbuilt alarm system – the thermostat will turn on automatically if the temperature drops to a figure that dramatically raises the risk of your pipes freezing.

If you’re going to be away from home, don’t make the mistake of leaving your heating off to save money. Set the timer for it to switch on for a few hours a day to keep warm air circulating. The same approach goes for while you’re sleeping. Nobody likes the idea of sleeping in a hot room but you can play it safe by having the heating on for at least an hour overnight on a lower temperature setting. It’s easy enough to turn your bedroom radiator down to remain comfortable.

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We hope it won’t be necessary but should you need help finding a tradesman, whether that’s fixing a blockage or dealing with a burst pipe, post your job and up to three tradesmen will get in touch to offer their services. You’ll be able to view their individual profile pages complete with previous customer recommendations to help you choose who to hire.

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