Frozen pipes

Frozen pipe

Has your water gone off? One of the most common reasons in winter is a frozen pipe.

Ask your neighbours if their water is working fine – if you are the only one without water it’s probably due your pipe freezing.

 

 

It’s usually quite a simple problem to solve, but should be done straight away to prevent any damage.

 

 

Here are some simple checks that might mean you can do it yourself.

 

 

  • 1 - Where is the blockage?

    • Use your hands to feel along the pipe until you reach a section that feels colder than the rest.

      You may find it helpful to compare the temperature of the blocked pipe to that of a pipe where you know the water is flowing freely.  

      During very cold weather, you may find multiple frozen areas within one pipe.
  • 2 - Defrosting and unblocking

    • Before you do anything else, clear the area around the pipe (in case it bursts) then turn off the main stop tap.  

      You should find this under the kitchen sink or where the service pipe enters your home.

      If you have a cold water tank, turn off the stopcock (this is usually found in the attic or loft).

      Open the cold tap closest to the part of the pipe that's frozen.

      This will allow the water to flow away when it melts.

      If you have a hairdryer, carefully thaw the ice in the pipe, starting at the tap end and working backwards towards the cold water tank.

      Take care as the pipe could burst at any time and spray water as it starts to thaw.

      If you don't own a hairdryer you can slowly thaw out the frozen section by covering it with hot water bottles or heat packs.

      Remember, never use a naked flame or a heat gun to thaw out ice as this could damage your pipes and creates a fire hazard.
  • 3 - Check pipe for damage

    • Once you've thawed out your pipes, check them thoroughly for any signs of damage or leaking.

      If the pipes have been damaged, you will need to call out an emergency plumber to fix the problem.  

      If everything looks OK turn your stop tap and stopcock back on and run water until normal flow is restored.
  • 4 - What if the pipe has burst?

    • If a frozen pipe does burst, it's important to know the best way to remove the water and deal with any damage.

      •    It's a good idea to check your insurance policy as soon as possible, as this may cover the costs of alternative accommodation for you and your family (if necessary).
      •    Dry out any affected rooms by keeping doors and windows open (where possible) and leaving your heating on. Consider hiring a de-humidifier, which will help to dry out the room further.
      •    Don't immediately throw away any water-damaged possessions, as your insurance company may need to take a look at them. Store everything together in a dry place.
  • 5 - How to avoid frozen pipes in the future?

    • One of the most common causes of frozen pipes is heating being switched off when homes are left empty.  

      If cold weather is expected while you’re away from home, leave heating on but turn the thermostat down to 6C.

      This keeps your water pipes above freezing point but won’t cost the earth.

      To prevent your indoor water pipes from freezing, leave your heating on a constant medium temperature rather than turning it on twice a day at a higher temperature.  

      Keep an eye on your external boiler pipe and act before too much ice builds up.