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How to limit the damage caused by frozen water pipes

By Karin Mangan
How to limit the damage caused by frozen water pipes

When water pipes freeze, the water expands, which can cause the pipes to burst and allow the thawed water to leak. A burst water pipe can cause serious damage to your home and furnishings.

Knowing what to do in the event of a burst water pipe can limit the damage. Here are some tips:

  • Turn off the water at the main stop tap as soon as you notice a leak. You can usually find it under the kitchen sink where the service pipe comes in, so make sure you know where it is in case of emergency.
  • If you have a cold water tank, turn off the stopcock.
  • Drain the cold water system by turning on all your cold taps.
  • Turn off any water heating system, such as central heating or immersion heaters, and then drain the hot water system by turning on the hot taps.
  • Switch off the electrical mains if you think the water may have leaked near your electrics or electrical appliances. However, if the mains switch is wet DO NOT TOUCH IT.
  • Call a plumber to fix the leaking water pipe.
  • Call an electrician if you think your electrical wiring may have been damaged by the water. Never underestimate the dangers associated with electricity, especially when mixed with water!
  • A burst pipe can be particularly dangerous if water leaks through for some time before you notice. In that case, the water may have caused structural damage that could result in collapsed ceilings or weakened walls. If the ceiling is bulging, be careful because it may not be safe. If you see the ceiling start to bulge, punch a hole in it to let the water through.

Prevention is better than cure when it comes to burst pipes. You can take some simple measures to stop your pipes from freezing.

  • If you are going away during very cold weather, set the heating to come on for fifteen minutes a couple of times a day.
  • Replace an old boiler with a more modern one with a frost protect thermostat that turns on automatically if the temperature falls to a certain level.
  • Insulate your pipes and the sides of your water tanks.
  • Fix dripping taps because they block the pipes if the water freezes.
  • If you notice a water pipe starting to freeze, thaw it slowly and carefully with a hairdryer or heat gun. Start at the end of the pipe and open the tap if there is one.

A little expense now to protect your water pipes from the cold can save you a great deal of expense later.

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