Protecting your pipes from cold weather

Preventing frozen pipes

Extremely cold weather can cause the pipes within the framework of your home to freeze, which could lead to problems with your water and heating systems.


Ways to avoid frozen pipes

  • Keep your heating on throughout any spell of severely cold weather.
  • Keep each room in your home warm by setting your thermostat to a minimum of 16 degrees centigrade.
  • If you're worried about your heating bills, turn the radiators down in the rooms you don't use.
  • Open the doors to all rooms within your home to allow warm air to circulate
  • Leave the door to your sink unit open during the night so that warm air can move around the pipes under your kitchen sink
  • If you have a loft, leave the hatch open to allow warm air to enter the roof space. This will help to prevent your pipes from freezing.

If you're away from home during the cold weather, ask a family member or neighbour to go in and turn on your heating and check for frozen pipes.

Make sure you know where your stop tap is.

If you discover a leaking tap or your water tap bursts, you'll need to turn your water supply off quickly using your stop tab (or stock cock)

It's usually located under the sink or where the service pipe enters your property.

Find out where your stop tap is and check it's working by opening and closing the valve.


How to deal with frozen pipes

  • Turn off the water by turning your stop tap clockwise.
  • Find the frozen area of the pipe. This will usually be a pipe running along an external wall.
  • Turn on the cold tap closest to the frozen pipe. The will allow the water to flow away when the pipe begins to defrost.
  • Only try to thaw the frozen pipes if you're sure they haven't split or cracked.
  • Never use a naked flame, blow torch or hot air gun to defrost the pipes.
  • Starting at the end of the pipe nearest to the tap, place hot water or a towel soaked in hot water over the frozen pipe. You could also use a hairdryer on a low setting, but be very careful to keep it away from any water. If the pipe bursts and water escapes, switch off the hairdryer immediately and remove it from the area to avoid the risk on an electrical shock.
  • The most important thing to remember is not to warm the pipes too quickly or they may burst.
  • Stay at home as the pipes defrost and keep checking them to make sure there are no leaks.
  • When you've thawed out the frozen pipes, check for any signs of cracking and splitting.
  • If the defrosted pipes aren't damaged, switch the water supply back on at the stop tap, and turn on the cold tap until the water is flowing normally again.
  • Check all of the pipes once again to make sure there are no leaks.

If you are a council tenant and the pipes are damaged, report the problem to us so that we can repair the pipes. 


Frozen boiler condensate pipe

Condensing boilers extract extra heat from the flue's waste gases. Some of this waste gas cools and turns into a small amount of acidic water. The condensate pipe drains this condensed water away from the boiler.

When outside temperatures drop below freezing for more than 24 hours, your condensate pipe might freeze. If the pipe becomes blocked, it will trigger a sensor which shuts down the boiler to prevent damage to the central heating system. This will cause your central heating to go off.

If possible, report the problem to an engineer and let it thaw it out.

If you have to clear the pipe yourself follow the instructions below. Be very careful.

  • Only attempt to thaw a condensate pipe that's located at ground level. Never try to deal with a frozen pipe that is located at height.
  • Try placing a hot water bottle or a heat wrap around the frozen section of the pipe.
  • Alternatively, you could pour warm water onto the outside of the pipe using a jug or a watering can. Do not use boiling water to do this. If your boiler isn't working you'll need to use a kettle or a microwave to warm up the water.
  • Once the boiler has thawed you'll need to reset it. To do this, press the reset button for 10 seconds and then wait. The boiler should re-fire within 2-3 minutes. If it doesn't, report the problem as there may be a fault.
  • Even if you manage to thaw the pipe yourself, you should still report the problem.


What to do with a burst pipe

If you discover a burst pipe, you'll need to act quickly to minimise the damage to your home. Here's what to do in 6 easy steps:

  1. Turn off the water supply using the stop tap. If you think water from the burst pipe may have come in to contact with any of your electrical appliances or fittings, switch off the electricity supply at the mains.
  2. Stop the flow of escaping water by wrapping a towel tightly around the burst pipe.
  3. Drain your water system by turning on the cold taps in your sink, wash basins and bath, and flushing your toilets. Do not turn on the hot taps.
  4. Turn off your central heating and water systems, including immersion heaters. You can now turn on the hot taps to help drain the system.
  5. Once the water system has been drained, contact us (if you are a council tenant) report the problem to us so that we can repair the pipes.