burst pipes
13 November 2019

Insurance advice, when water turns to ice

Still current at: 20 December 2021

Burst pipes are the often forgotten hazard of a harsh winter and each year, Unity handles numerous claims due to damage caused by ruptured water pipes. A small fracture can release gallons of water, damaging the foundations, furniture, carpets and contents of the building. As with any hazard, prevention is better than cure and we hope these tips will help you protect your pipework from puncturing in the next cold snap.

Prepare your premises

A little bit of maintenance can go a long way. Take these simple steps to protect your plumbing:

  • Arrange regular services for your boiler and heating system.
  • Check that the thermostat is working correctly.
  • Check the insulation around your water pipes and cold-water tank:
    • Pipes in the attic or other exposed places should be lagged – a special type of insulation that fits snuggly around water pipes – and well protected.
  • Switch off external taps and disconnect hoses when freezing is forecast.
  • Ensure that all personnel know where the stopcock is.

Going somewhere?

If your property is going to be out of use at any point during the winter months, it should still be braced against the cold:

  • Keep the heating running at a low level to prevent the pipes freezing. If the forecast is exceptionally cold then raise the temperature accordingly.
  • If your premises will be unoccupied for a particularly long time, drain and shut off the water system before you lock up.

Catch it before it cracks

If you find your pipes have frozen, do not wait for them to burst. You may yet be able to salvage the situation:

  • Turn off the water supply.
  • Very slowly thaw the affected pipe by warming the property back to its normal, ambient temperature. 
  • Do not attempt to rapidly thaw the pipes with a blow torch or other open flame.

Here come the waterworks

If a pipe does burst before you were able to properly prepare, you will need to act fast to limit the damage from the deluge.

  • Turn off the water supply at the stopcock.
  • Do not touch electronics that could have come into contact with water.
  • Call in an electrician to check it is safe to use these items again.

Ensure you're insured

For a building to be comprehensively covered during winter, the water pipes must be lagged. If the building is unoccupied for more than a week, the water must be turned off at the mains (or drained as much as possible), and the temperature inside kept to a minimum of 13°C/ 55°F.

For more information on covering your premises against a deep freeze, call one of our advisors on 0345 040 7702.