Frozen and burst pipes

Very cold weather brings the risk of freezing pipes, which can burst and cause serious water damage when they thaw. Here are some practical tips that could help to prevent damage to your home from a burst pipe.

How to avoid burst or frozen pipes*:

  • Lag all your water pipes and your water tank.
  • Keep your heating system on at a minimum temperature (at least 15°C) during very cold weather.
  • Locate your water shut-off valve (stopcock) and make sure you can turn it easily. You will need to be able to turn it off in an emergency.
  • Replace the washers on any dripping taps. If the tap freezes, the pipe will be blocked.
  • Check plumbing joints for any signs of freezing, and call a plumber if you spot any damage.
  • If you go on holiday during the winter, ask a neighbour to check on your property, so the damage can be minimised if a pipe does burst.
  • If you’re going away for a long period of time, consider seeking professional advice about draining your plumbing and heating systems.

If a water pipe freezes:

  • Turn off the water supply via the stopcock, as well as the supply from your cold water tank.
  • Protect anything around the frozen pipe to avoid further damage.
  • Open the tap closest to the frozen section of pipe, and begin to thaw it with a gentle heat source, such as a hair dryer or a hot water bottle. Start from the tap end, and work back towards the water tank. Never use an open flame or boiling water.


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If a pipe bursts: 

  • Turn the water supply off as soon as you can, both at the stopcock and the water tank.
  • Switch off the central heating system.
  • If the ceiling is bulging from water above, cut a hole and place a bucket underneath.
  • Locate the source of the leak if you can.
  • To drain the cold water tank, run all the cold taps and flush the toilets a few times.
  • To drain the hot water system, make sure the boiler and immersion heater are turned off, and close the cold feed pipe. Then run all the hot taps in the house to empty the pipes of water.
  • Call a plumber and an electrician as soon as possible.
  • Photograph and catalogue any damaged items.


Don’t touch anything electrical – call an electrician.  

When you make a claim:

An expert claims team will advise you on the best course of action. If there is a lot of damage, they may appoint a loss adjuster to manage your claim and give you further guidance. You will receive a Certificate of Dryness once your house has been dried out, and a professional restoration company will be instructed to repair the damage.

Personal items that were damaged or lost may be repaired or restored according to the terms and conditions in your insurance policy.


*These measures do not guarantee avoidance of frozen and burst pipes, but may help reduce the likelihood.