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Frozen pipes

Losses resulting from burst / leaking pipes or faults in a property’s plumbing system have a significant impact on the insurance industry and ABI members pay out around £2.5 million every day to customers in what they term ‘escape of water’ claims. A significant proportion of this damage is due to pipes bursting during freezing temperatures in the winter months, but much of this damage can be prevented by taking a few easy preventative measures.

At the height of the cold spell in 2010 insurers dealt with 3,500 claims for burst pipe damage every day. The typical cost of household damage caused by burst pipes averaged up to £7,000 during that cold spell, but in some cases costs were significantly more, reaching into tens of thousands of pounds.  In the last few years winter temperatures haven’t been as severe, but it is best to be prepared and take steps to minimise any potential damage.

While standard home and business insurance policies will pay for the often considerable damage caused by burst pipes, they cannot compensate for the misery and inconvenience that the damage brings to homes and businesses throughout the UK.  It is important to make sure that both your buildings and contents insurance policies provide your home or your business with sufficient cover should the worst happen this winter.

Some steps you can take to minimise the chances of an incident happening this winter are outlined below:

Preparing for winter

  • Find your main stopcock and make sure you can turn it on and off
  • Repair any dripping taps. This will help prevent water from freezing
  • Checking your lagging. All pipes and tanks in loft spaces, and anywhere else which could be liable to freezing, should be fully lagged

Leaving your property empty during winter

  • Leave your heating on for at least an hour a day while you are away from home. In severe weather, or if severe weather is forecast, you should always leave your heating on day and night at your usual temperature setting - whether you are at home or not
  • If it is very cold consider opening your loft trap door. This allows warm air from other parts of the house to circulate in the loft and will help prevent pipes freezing
  • Ask a friend or relative to visit your home every day while you are away. This will mean that, if you do suffer a burst pipe, it will be detected as soon as possible, and the damage caused will be minimised

Finding your pipes frozen

  • Turn your water off at the main stopcock and thaw them with a hairdryer or hot water bottle
  • If a pipe has burst, turn off the water at the main stopcock. Switch off your central heating and any other water heating installations. Open all the taps to drain the system. Make sure professional repairs are carried out before you turn anything back on
  • Keep contact details for your insurance company helpline near your phone

Assessing the Damage

  • Should an incident happen that causes damage to your home or its contents, contact your insurer as soon as possible.  Insurers' helplines are open 24 hours a day
  • Your insurer may want to commission a loss adjuster to contact you to assess the damage in detail, and in extreme cases arrange alternative accommodation (buildings and contents policies provide for this) and plan the restoration process. In normal conditions, your loss adjuster will get in contact within 24 hours of you contacting your insurer. However, after a major drop in temperatures, this may take longer due to the volume of claims
  • Look through the initial assessment that the loss adjuster will give you. They should be able to provide you with an approximate timetable outlining what needs to be done to restore your home, who will do it and how long it will take

More help on getting ready for winter can be found on the following websites: