Why do pipes freeze?

During cold weather, the pipes in your home may freeze for a number of reasons.

Here are the most common causes of frozen pipes:

  • Poorly protected pipes, which haven’t been sufficiently insulated
  • Exposure to icy draughts, usually as a result of cracks or gaps at the point where the pipe enters your home
  • Pipes located inside cupboards. Warm air from inside your home may not reach these pipes if your cupboard doors are closed most of the time

Why do pipes burst?

It may surprise you to know that pipes don’t usually burst at the spot where an ice blockage occurs. Find out what causes pipes to burst during cold weather.

  • Water freezes and expands inside your household pipes.
  • Continual freezing and expansion of water inside the pipe causes pressure to build up between the ice blockage and the closed faucet.
  • As a result of repeated pressure on this section of pipe, the pipe eventually bursts.

How to prevent frozen pipes

To keep water flowing freely through your pipes and not freezing this winter there are actions that you can take:


Insulate your loft and the sides of your water tanks. Protect your pipes in winter by wrapping them with lagging. This is available from most DIY shops.

Keep your heating permanently on a low setting

Most new boilers have a built in thermostat built in with frost protection that will automatically turn on if the temperature drops to freezing. It is important to check that this is working.
In cold weather try to leave your heating on a low setting or set the timer to come on once or twice a day even if you are going away and leaving the house empty.

Find your stopcock

It is very important you know here your main water stopcock is and that you check it regularly to ensure you can turn it off quickly and easily in an emergency situation. easily in an emergency.

Check your pipes and water tank regularly


Make sure you regularly check your taps especially underneath cupboards or bathroom cabinets and if there are any dripping taps replace the washers.

What to do if you have frozen pipes If your pipes do freeze

  1. Identify where the blockage is check along the pipe with your hands, you should be able to fee which section is colder. There may be more than one blockage especially in exposed pipes.
  2. Turn off the water at the Main Stopcock tap
  3. Protect against water damage.
  4. Remove any items in the area surrounding the frozen pipe (s) and take up carpets in case the pipe bursts. If possible take up carpets and place waterproof covering in the area around and under the pipe.

Open the cold tap near to the frozen pipe

Once you have defrosted the pipe, run the cold water tap that is nearest to the pipe so the water can run through when the blockage has finally melted.

Defrost the Pipe

A hair dryer is ideal for defrosting the pipe, start at the end closest to the tap and slowly thaw the ice. Be very careful as the pipe could burst. Hot water bottles are also good for defrosting pipes. But NOT boiling Water!

Check the pipe for any damage

Make sure you check the pipe especially the joins for any leaks or obvious signs of damage, if the pipe is damaged you will need to call out a plumber. If necessary turn the water supply off.

Turn the taps back on

When you have defrosted the pipes and the blockage has melted, turn the stop tap and stopcock back on and run the cold water through slowly until it is flowing normally.

What to do if your pipe bursts?

  • Call your Insurance Company and report the claim If there is a large amount of water damage and you are unable to stay in your home check your Insurance Policy as you may be covered for the cost of alternative temporary accommodation.

Drying out your home

  • Open doors and windows and also hire or buy a dehumidifier to help dry out the room affected. If you have air conditioning you can also use the fan to draw out moisture from the room.

Keep any damaged items for your insurance assessor

  • Make sure you keep any water damaged items for your insurance company to look at when they come to assess the damage.