Burst pipes can cause serious damage to your home and are normally caused by water in the pipe freezing. When water freezes it expands, and that is what causes fractures to the pipes. By following a few simple precautions you can hopefully avoid getting frozen pipes.
To avoid frozen pipes you should:
- check the severe weather reports
- keep your home reasonably warm day and night
- never leave a tap dripping
- reduce draughts wherever possible
- leave your loft hatch open a little in really cold weather
If you leave your home empty for a few days during the winter it is important that you:
- leave your central heating on at the frost setting
- leave a key with someone who can keep an eye on the house
If you get frozen pipes:
- thaw the pipes by applying gentle heat - a hairdryer or hot water bottle but do not use a naked flame
- raise the temperature in your house but do not switch on the immersion or central heating
- when the water begins to run at all taps and the WC cistern, it is safe to use the immersion or central heating
If you get burst pipes:
- turn off the water at the main stopcock immediately - this can save a lot of time, damage and expense. The main stopcock is usually found under the sink. If the Council has recently fitted a new kitchen you will have a Sure Stop valve that, once activated, will shut off the water supply. Check now where your stopcock is located.
- turn on all taps and flush the WC
- switch off the electricity supply if water comes into contact with fittings or wiring
- attempt to contain the leak in a bowl or other container
- contact the Council's Repair Service
- warn any neighbours who may be affected
Blocked drains in sinks and baths can easily become frozen making it impossible for water to pass through the pipes. If this happens, try pouring some salt down the waste outlet or drain, then leave for 15 minutes before repeating. If this doesn’t work, try pouring hot but not boiling water directly into the waste pipe after the salt has had two or three failed attempts.
Do not apply too much heat to a frozen tap or you will risk damaging the washer within the tap. Again, a hairdryer set to moderate heat can be used if safe to do so.
Frozen condensate pipes
During periods of very cold weather, we receive enquiries from tenants whose boilers do not appear to be working. This can be due to the plastic condensate discharge pipe outside of your property freezing, preventing the boiler from operating. This can also cause water to appear as though it is leaking from your boiler. Your boiler is likely to stop working and it may show a fault sign if it has a digital display.
Check if the plastic pipe that runs from your boiler to the outside is frozen. If it is, you may be able to thaw the plastic pipe as long as it is at ground level, accessible and safe for you to do so. To thaw the pipe you can:
- hold a hot water bottle or warmed heat wrap around the condensate pipe
- try pouring warm but not boiling water on the condensate pipe
Once thawed, the boiler must be reset. If you are uncertain how to do this, perhaps a neighbour, friend or family member can assist you but if you have any doubts contact our Housing Repair Service.
In extreme cold weather conditions our repairs service can experience a high volume of calls for heating and hot water repair requests. We prioritise reports of no heating or hot water for our elderly, disabled and vulnerable tenants. Please help by trying to thaw out pipes yourself if you think this is the cause of your problem and it is safe to do so.