How to thaw and defrost frozen pipes

Take action to protect your home against the cold snap

Sabrina Barr
Sunday 18 December 2022 09:54 GMT
Amazing Weather Channel graphics return to explain the science behind ice storms

Weather warnings of snow and ice are in place for parts of the UK as a deep freeze brings potentially dangerous travel conditions.

As temperatures drop, the water pipes in your home are at greater risk of freezing and bursting.

Here’s everything that you need to know about precautions that you can take to prevent frozen water pipes, what to do if they freeze and what you must do if they burst.

Preventing frozen pipes

During extremely cold weather conditions, you must ensure that your water pipes are insulated efficiently, especially if they are exposed.

After purchasing lagging material from a DIY store, use it to insulate your pipes all the while checking that there are no gaps at the bends, valves or fittings, advises Water UK.

It’s important that you know where the stopcock for your water supply is located, as you may have to turn off your water supply in the event of your pipes freezing or bursting.

Another thing that you need to do is to monitor the temperature of your house, both for when you’re at home and if you go away on holiday.

“If you are going away on a winter’s holiday, leave the thermostat set low (at least five degrees) to help prevent pipes from freezing; and do check your insurance policy to see if you have to comply with any directives,” explains Paul Harmer, lead technical consultant for the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering.

When you’re at home, you should set your central heating on a low heat.

What to do if your pipes freeze

“When the water freezes it expands and can cause pipes to crack,” explains Yorkshire Water. “As temperatures begin to rise the ice will melt and inevitably escape through the crack.”

As mentioned above, if your pipes have frozen you must shut off the water supply at the stopcock.

There are measures that you can take to attempt to thaw the frozen pipe, such as using a hairdryer on a low setting, hot water bottles or a towel soaked in hot water, suggests Water UK.

The best call of action would be to call in a professional plumber before your pipes burst.

What to do if your pipes burst

Despite the preventative steps that you can take, there is always the possibility that your pipes may eventually burst.

Should this happen, if you haven’t already turned off your water supply at the stopcock, do so immediately.

According to Water UK, in the event of burst pipes you should open all of your taps in order to reduce flooding and use thick towels to soak up any water that’s leaking from the cracks.

You must call in a professional plumber to sort out the burst pipes.

Once your burst pipes have been taken care of, remember to turn off all of the taps in your home to reduce any chance of flooding.

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