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Avoid burst pipes at your holiday home.

Burst pipes can be very costly to any holiday homeowner. In the latest of our owner advice pieces, Andrew Exelby provides some useful tips about how to avoid burst pipes at your holiday home this winter.

frozen bar holiday home pipe

Water is one of the biggest enemies to any building. Ingress of water or a leak over any period of time can do damage to fabric and the structure of your home – did you know that “escape of water” accounts for one in four domestic insurance claims? The damage caused by water can cost hundreds, even thousands of pounds, depending on the volume of water, the location of the leak, and the period of time over which the leak has been happening.

Colder weather brings a number of challenges to homeowners – there is the higher rainfall, the very noticeable drop in temperature, and of course the reduction in daylight hours where repairs or maintenance can be completed. It is best to be prepared and have a routine in place ahead of the cold snap – this will save hassle, time, and ultimately a lot of money in the very worst cases! 

When temperatures plunge and we start to hear the word “freezing” on the weather forecast, it is time to ensure we have measures in place to avoid the very worst kind of leak at your property: burst water pipes! So what can you do? Read on for simple steps we recommend taking. 

Lag your pipes.

Wrapping your water pipes can protect them from getting so cold that the water inside them freezes – this is typically done using something called polyethylene and can be bought from most hardware outlets very reasonably. The foam tube fits over your pipes and will retain any heat to stop the pipe from freezing and potentially bursting. 

Keep the heating on.thermostat at your holiday home - keep your heating on

Turning your central heating off over empty winter periods might seem like a canny way to save money, but in actual fact, this can be a false economy and could end up costing you a lot more than keeping the heat going. Keeping your heating on will mean that water in the pipes remains at a constant temperature and shouldn’t freeze. When your holiday property is empty during winter it is always recommended to leave your heating permanently on and maintain a temperature of at least 13 degrees Celsius, especially during any sub-zero temperatures. 

Turn your water supply off and drain the system.

If you absolutely don’t want to keep your property heated throughout winter, an alternative is to stop the water supply to your property via the stop tap and then drain the water in your property’s pipes. With no water to freeze, your pipes and heating system will sit dormant, but safe. This is less preferable to keeping your heat on because without heat, some traditionally built homes can develop issues and if left for any period of time can be costly to put right. 

Arrange for regular inspections.

If you are at a distance from your holiday cottage, it is important you ensure somebody is able to attend your property and inspect it regularly. Many insurance policies would be invalidated if this regular check was not done through quieter months. Having a housekeeper or a caretaker who can visit every week or fortnight just to check a short list of things will put your mind at ease and potentially save you a lot of heartache and damage. 

Similarly, keep your central heating system repairs and servicing up to date – annually should be sufficient, but it will protect you from catastrophic failures that lead to an unwanted internal water feature.

What if my pipes freeze?Damage to the heating system in a private home. Water leaks from the heating system.

If you suspect or know you have frozen pipes, the first thing to do is to turn your internal stop tap off – this will minimise the amount of water which might escape in the event of a pipe bursting. Similarly, if you have a water tank in your loft and this has a stop tap, turn this off!
Turn off your central heating and look for any visible cracking or damage to pipes that you can access. Pipes are very often in walls and under floors, so can’t always be seen. If you are in any doubt or you find damage to your pipes, call in a plumber.

If no damage is visible and you want to try to thaw the pipes yourself, get some towels and buckets so that you are prepared should the worst happen. At this point, we would also recommend moving anything near the frozen pipe which might be damaged. You should open any taps close to the area where the pipes may have frozen (freezing pipes will normally bulge), this helps release pressure when the ice thaws and will allow the water out safely. When ready to try thawing any frozen sections, warm the pipes gently using a hot water bottle or a hairdryer – never use a naked flame!  

Once you are satisfied the pipe has thawed and there is no leak, you can turn your water supply back on, but if you are in any doubt, please contact a plumber for help. 

What’s the damage?

In one day, if left, a burst water pipe can mean that your holiday home has up to 48 bathtubs of water emptied into it – which is approximately 9600 litres of water!  

Further reading.

For more useful tips for holiday homeowners, head over to our Owner Advice blog. If you are considering letting your cottage with us, please visit Let Your Cottage.