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Protecting your pipes

During the cold winter months, water in your pipes can freeze, causing damage that can lead to leaks. Here’s how you can protect your pipes and taps to prevent leaks and bursts.

How to protect your pipes in winter

It’s important to protect your pipes and taps from the cold. When temperatures are cold enough for snow and ice, the water inside exposed pipework and garden taps can freeze. As the water turns to ice, it expands. This can cause the pressure in the pipes to increase, which can stretch and damage pipework and taps, eventually leading to leaks and bursts when the temperatures rise again.

We are responsible for the maintenance of public pipework. The homeowner must maintain pipes and taps within the property boundary, beyond the point of the external stop tap.

There are some simple steps you can take to protect pipes and taps in and around your home during winter.

Wrap your pipes with lagging

Lagging your pipes is one of the best things you can do to protect them. It’s a simple job to do, and you’ll be able to buy pipe lagging from your local DIY store all year round.
  

Pipes can be exposed to freezing temperatures if they’re in a part of your home that isn’t heated. And when pipes freeze, it can lead to bursts – so it's really worthwhile protecting them to prevent them from freezing in the first place.

You should protect any water pipes which are exposed to cold temperatures – such as those in lofts, garages or outside – with lagging.

Measure the length if lagging you need and cut the lagging down to size with some sharp scissors. Fit the lagging over the pipes and ensure the seam joins together. The lagging is self-sealing, but it’s a good idea to secure it with adhesive tape to make sure cold air can’t get to the pipe. You can also use sturdy cloth tape or insulation tape to help cover the joins and make them nice and neat.

This helps to keep your pipes cosy and warm, reducing the risk of them freezing.

Identifying your water pipes

If you’re unsure which of the pipes in your home carry water and which carry gas, you can check by running the taps. If the pipe vibrates or makes a sound when the water is running, it’s a water pipe.

The lagging we provide is designed to fit standard 15mm pipes. Each section of lagging is 2 metres long and self-sealing.

If don’t know how big your pipes are, you can check the size of your pipes using the Water Regulations Advisory Scheme tool.

Cover your outdoor tap

Garden and outdoor taps are vulnerable to the cold too. Covering them up during the winter will really help to protect them.

You should be able to buy tap guards from your local DIY store.  

If you’ve already lagged your pipes, make sure you protect your outside taps too. A frozen tap can increase the risk of a burst pipe. Covering it up from the cold can massively reduce this risk. If you are protecting your outdoor tap, make sure you also lag the pipe that leads to it, if it’s exposed.

What to do if your pipes freeze

If it's cold outside and you've got no water, you may have frozen pipes.

First of all, check with your neighbours to see if they have water. If they’re also unable to run water, there may be a supply interruption in your area.

If your neighbours are able to run their taps, then it’s likely your pipes have frozen. You should turn off your water supply at your stop tap and begin to thaw your pipes to try and fix it.  

You will need to applying a gentle heat, such as a warm towel, to the pipes to get melt the ice and get the water moving again. Keep moving the source of heat along the pipe to prevent any cracks or damage.

Do not use a naked flame to thaw the pipes.   

Turn the water supply back on at the stop tap, and check to see if your water is flowing again.  

If you still have no water after that, contact a plumber to investigate the problem.

During cold weather, look out for friends, family and neighbours    

Some people have medical conditions or other circumstances, which means a disruption to their water supply can cause huge problems for them. Our priority services can help these customers when they need it most.  

Call our 24-hour Customer Centre on 0800 783 4444.