Freezing February - Protect your pipes in half-term break

Article date: 9 February 2012

With the icy blast continuing to sweep across Britain, Aviva is advising homeowners to carry out some simple home checks to prevent freezing and burst pipes drenching their homes.

Just one burst pipe in the loft can mean water gushing through your property ruining furnishings and belongings along the way and in some cases bringing whole ceilings down – the average cost of damage is around £8,000.

For the homeowner this can mean months of disruption while their house is dried out and repaired. And if homes are left empty at holiday time, leaks often aren't discovered for many days and so damage can get progressively worse.

Carole Gallagher, head of household claims, at Aviva said: “With the relatively mild start to the winter it’s easy to forget how quickly temperatures can plummet and many homeowners can be caught out by the arctic temperatures we are currently experiencing.

“Freezing and burst pipes can be a real problem - in some cases ruining entire floors of your home. The risk can be worse in traditional properties without modern heating systems or properly insulated pipes.

"And when homes are left empty, burst or leaking pipes often aren't discovered for many days and so damage can get progressively worse so think about asking a friend or neighbour to pop in and check your home if you are escaping the cold for a half-term break in the sun.”

But simple precautions can prevent a potential disaster:

  • If you can keep heating on a constant low temperature – especially if you are planning a weekend away. This means that water in pipes or tanks should never get cold enough to freeze and then burst.
  • If you are going away for half-term get someone to check on your home, if a problem is spotted early the damage could be much less.
  • Make sure any loft hatches are open so that warm air from the rest of your house can circulate into the roof space.
  • Know where your stop cock is - it is generally found underneath your kitchen sink. There should also be an access point for a stop cock outside your home (normally near your driveway).
  • Lots of lagging - one of the main causes of freezing pipes is a lack of lagging - so anyone attempting to do a bit of plumbing themselves, should bear in mind that pipes and tanks in the loft, or anywhere else liable to freeze, need to be properly lagged.
  • Insulate on top of pipes rather than underneath them, as insulation laid below the pipes will prevent rising heat reaching them.  Wrap up water tanks and cisterns in insulating jackets.

If the worst happens

  • If you do suffer a burst pipe turn off the water mains stop cock immediately to ensure no more water is flowing into your home. 
  • Switch off central heating and any other water heating installations to avoid further damage.  
  • If you have a burst tank, turn on all taps to drain the system, this will reduce the escape of water and damage to your property.
  • Call a professional tradesman immediately to repair the burst pipe.   
  • Call your insurer as soon as you can to register a claim. 
  • Aviva has lines open 24 hours 360 days a year. One of our experts will be on hand to give you further guidance and start the process of getting your property repaired. Register a claim with Aviva on 0844 891 1222.

Your cover
Damage caused by freezing water and leaking or "escaping" water from tanks, pipes, or heating systems is covered as standard under Aviva’s contents and buildings insurance policies. Damage to the pipe itself, caused by freeze, is also covered under Aviva’s buildings insurance.

Aviva’s home insurance also gives you alternative accommodation cover if you have to move out of your home while the damage is being repaired.

If you are planning a longer holiday over the winter period make sure you tell your insurer. Most standard policies don't cover you for some perils like escape of water, burglary and theft if your home is unoccupied or unfurnished for a certain period of time. Aviva offers full cover for 30 days as standard, but this can be extended to 60 days if needed. If you are going away for longer get in touch to see if additional cover can be arranged.


If you are a journalist and would like further information, please contact:
Rebecca Holmes
Aviva General Insurance press office 
Telephone: +44 (0)1603 685177
Mobile: +44 (0)7800 690731 

Notes to editors:

Aviva is the world’s sixth largest* insurance group. We provide 44.5 million customers with insurance, savings and investment products with total worldwide sales in 2010 of £47.1 billion**.
We are the UK’s largest insurer with over 14 million customers. Our combination of life, health and general insurance is unique in its scale and breadth in the UK market.  Customers can choose to buy our products through intermediaries, our corporate partners or from Aviva direct and we have become the partner of choice for many of the UK’s biggest organisations. 
We are ranked as one of the UK’s top 10 most valuable brands and Aviva plc are in the top 10% of socially responsible companies globally in the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index. In 2010 we invested £4.3 million into our communities in the UK, which included 1,500 Aviva volunteers giving 24,000 hours for good causes. In addition, our employees gave £600,000 through fundraising and donating. Read our corporate responsibility report at
Aviva is working in partnership with Railway Children through the Aviva Street to School programme to get children living or working on UK streets back into everyday life. Find out more at
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* based on gross worldwide premiums at 31 December 2010.
** at 31 December 2010.


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