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Tips for avoiding plumbing disasters this Winter

Tips for avoiding plumbing disasters this Winter

14 December 2016

We’re at that time of year when the weather can change from being relatively mild to quickly plunge into sub-zero temperatures. When temperatures plunge, plumbing and heating systems feel the strain and become prone to bursts and breakdowns, often requiring urgent assistance from emergency plumbers.

The best way to avoid potential plumbing emergencies is to be prepared and take what precautionary action you can – before anything happens. You should familiarise yourself with the plumbing system in your home, taking note of where shut off valves are so that you can reach them fast in an emergency. It is advisable to check that valves work by turning them off and then back on again so that if a plumbing emergency happens you can contain the damage as quickly as possible.


Protect external plumbing

Pipes and fittings exposed to the coldest temperatures – especially outside but also in your loft – are most likely to freeze and either burst or breakdown. Here are some useful tips for helping to avoid potential plumbing emergencies:

  1. Insulate external water pipes to outside taps. Pipe insulation or lagging can be purchased from DIY or home improvement stores and can be easily pushed onto or wrapped around pipes.
  2. Isolate any outside taps that aren’t used during winter and drain water from the pipework feeding them. If you don’t have an isolation valve inside your home to enable you to do this, it is a relatively simple job for a professional and money well spent to avoid a potential burst pipe.

Internal plumbing

Your internal plumbing pipes and fittings may still be exposed to cold temperatures and vulnerable to freezing.

  1. Identify exposed pipework in loft spaces, unheated rooms or basements, under floors and protect it with pipe insulation or lagging.
  2. If you are away from your property, don’t turn the heating system off, but set the thermostat to a low temperature, such as 9 or 10 degrees. That way, if the temperature does drop while you’re away, the heating will turn itself on to provide some low heat and protect against freezing.
  3. Prevention is better, and cheaper, than cure. Ensure your systems are well-maintained and serviced regularly. For more information see tips for maintaining your boiler.


If you are going to be away for a few days, you should think about shutting your mains water supply off. That way, if a pipe does burst, you can limit the damage that will be caused.


Related articles

What to do in a plumbing emergency

Tips for maintaining your boiler