While water damage can happen at any time of the year, it’s particularly common after cold weather. If the pipes in your home get too cold, the water inside freezes, expands and can crack pipes or joints. When the ice thaws, you could be left with a leak.
A leak may not be noticeable at first, but the damage can quickly spread. So, how can you avoid water damage in your home? Follow these steps to protect your home through winter and beyond.
EASY AS HACK
Are you unsure which of the pipes in your home carry water and which carry gas? Check by running the taps. If the pipe vibrates, or makes a sound when the water is running, then it’s a water pipe.
AT A GLANCE
1. How to check your pipes for leaks
2. How to avoid water damage in your home
3. What to do if your pipes are frozen
How to check your pipes for leaks
The first test to spotting leaking pipes is by sight. To do this, look for these key warning signs:
- Check for drips
- Look for splits in your pipes
- Notice rusting or oxidised pipes and joints
- Run the taps to make sure water is free-flowing
If water flow is restricted or intermittent anywhere in your home, check with a plumber in case there is hidden damage.
How to avoid water damage in your home
Water damage can happen fast and be costly to repair. Follow this simple checklist to avoid water damage in your home.
Repair dripping taps
It’s important to get leaky taps, showers and toilets fixed by a plumber, as even small trickles of water can lead to frozen pipes.
Garden and outdoor taps are vulnerable to the cold, too, so cover them up in winter to protect them.
Test your stop tap
Make sure you know where your internal stop tap (also known as an isolation valve or stopcock) is located. The stop tap turns the water on and off to your house and it’s the quickest way to stop a water leak. Test it by turning it on and off several times, as stop taps can seize up.
Turning the valve clockwise will close it, but it may take a few minutes for the water to stop altogether. If it won’t turn, contact a plumber to fix it.
Consider fitting a leak detector
Leak detectors monitor your usual water use and can turn off the water if they detect a leak.
Alternatively, you can use your water meter to check for leaks. Make sure nothing is using any water in your home, turn your stop tap off and note the reading. Then check again after one or two hours to see if the meter reading has changed. If it has, there may be a leak somewhere and it’s better to contact a plumber to check it out.
Check your lagging
All pipes and tanks in loft spaces and other draughty areas, such as garages and outbuildings, are at risk of freezing. So, ensure they are fully covered with lagging, a type of foam tubing. You can buy this cheaply online, easily cut it to size and wrap it around your pipes to protect them.
If you have water pipes in the loft, then to help prevent them from freezing in very cold weather, you could open the loft hatch to let warm air from other parts of the house circulate.
What to do if your pipes are frozen
If your pipes freeze, turn off your water at the stop tap. Then thaw the frozen pipes using a hairdryer, hot water bottle or towels soaked in hot water.
If a pipe has burst, turn off the water at the stop tap as quickly as possible. You should also switch off your central heating.
Put plugs into the bath and sinks and open the taps to drain down the system. The water you capture will give you a temporary supply while you wait for help, but make sure the bath and sinks don’t overflow.
If you notice water damage, it’s important to call professional help as soon as possible.
Original article written 19th January 2021, updated 18th October 2023