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NFU Mutual urges Britons to beware signs of frozen pipes as thaw could cost thousands in damage

AS FORECASTERS predict an end to freezing temperatures next week, leading rural insurer NFU Mutual is warning to people to beware of the signs of frozen pipes and take steps to avoid repair bills which can run up to £8,000 and beyond.

Extreme cold weather greatly increased the chance of water in pipes around the home freezing. When the water in pipes freezes, it expands, causing the pressure inside the pipe to build up. This can often cause the pipe to split when it thaws, resulting in significant damage to the home.

Though simple steps such as keeping your heating on at a low temperature or lagging your plumbing can prevent pipes from freezing, there is no guaranteed preventative measure in such low temperatures.

With such extreme low temperatures, there is a possibility of widespread leaks developing as the colder weather subsides and pipes begin to thaw. In 2018, when the ‘Beast from the East’ hit the country, NFU Mutual saw 1660 claims for leaks following frozen pipes, over ten times the average in the milder years since.

Explaining how people can mitigate this risk, Jon Bird, Property Claims Manager at NFU Mutual, said: “As sustained freezing temperatures generally lead to a rise in claims as frozen pipes thaw, we anticipate that plumbers and other repairers up and down the country will be unusually busy throughout next week.

“A large-scale leak will cause significant disruption for people before Christmas, so it’s therefore vital that home and business owners look out for the signs of frozen pipes and take action to prevent excessive damage.

“If your taps, toilets or boiler stops working, you may have a frozen pipe, so it’s worth checking periodically. As soon as you identify a potentially frozen pipe, turn off your water at the mains and at your water tank, if you have one, and see if you can locate the blockage where the pipe is frozen.

“You can then call a plumber or attempt to thaw the pipe yourself while the water is off. To thaw pipes, open the taps and then attempt to thaw the area using hot cloths or towels or a similar item like a hot water bottle. Never use a naked flame and do not apply strong heat directly to the area, and consider placing a container beneath the area to catch any leaks if the pipe is burst.

“If there is a leak, ensure the mains water supply remains off and the water system is drained and contact your insurer.

“Over the weekend, you can also take steps to avoid pipes freeze in the first place by checking insulation and lagging, keeping the heating on and opening doors between rooms to allow air to circulate in unused rooms.”

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What to do if your pipes freeze

If taps or toilets stop working or refilling, or your boiler stops working, your taps may be frozen. If this happens:

  • Know where your stopcock is and turn off the water
  • Open the taps and then attempt to thaw the area using hot cloths or towels or a similar item like a hot water bottle. Never use a naked flame and do not apply strong heat directly to the area. Consider placing a container beneath the area to catch any leaks if the pipe is burst
  • If there is a leak, ensure the mains water supply remains off and the water system is drained and contact your insurer

The chances of pipes freezing and splitting depends on the weather, the age and construction of the plumbing, and other factors like the level of insulation in your home. However, there are some simple steps you can take to reduce the chances of damage.

Insulate pipes and water tanks with inexpensive lagging and tank jackets, paying particular attention to areas exposed to the cold – for example, outdoor pipes and those in attics, basements and lesser-used rooms
Set your thermostat to kick in above freezing temperature, or set the heating to regularly come on, even if you are not home
If leaving the house for a number of days, turn the water off at the mains and run the taps to avoid water building up in pipes
Insulate your home with draught excluders and other methods
When the heating is on, consider opening doors to little-used rooms and cupboards where pipes are
Fix leaky taps, which can increase the chance of freezing

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