Protect your pipes before cold weather bites

Article date: 9 November 2011

Homeowners are being advised to do a quick health check on their properties after hundreds of homes were drenched by burst pipes last winter.

  • In 2010 Aviva saw six times more freezing weather-related claims than average
  • In the very cold snap at the end of 2010 60% of freeze claims were for burst pipes
  • The average cost of damage caused by burst pipes was around £8,000.

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. For the homeowner this can mean months of disruption while their house is dried out and repaired.

Rob Townend, director of household claims at Aviva, advises homeowners to follow some simple tips before the cold weather bites: “Although it has been a relatively mild Autumn it is easy to forget how quickly temperatures can plummet and many homeowners were caught out by the severe weather at the beginning of last winter.

“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 be particularly aware if you are planning to leave your home for Christmas or New Year – if you can keep the central heating on low so that warm air can circulate throughout the house.

“The problem starts when the thaw begins so make sure you have someone who can check on your home regularly and in particular when temperatures start to rise again, that way any leaks can be spotted early and stopped.”

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.


  • 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
    Insulation should be laid 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.
  • Home alone
    If you are going away for a few days or weeks consider leaving the heating on at a constant low level 24 hours a day, this will reduce the risk of water freezing and bursting pipes.

(This may appear environmentally unfriendly or a little extravagant during these economic conditions, but it might mean the difference between a ruined home or a dry one when you return from your break.)

Also remember to open the hatch to your loft so that warm air can circulate.

And get someone to check on your home while you are away, if a problem is spotted early the damage could be much less.

  • Before the cold weather arrives – check your stop cock
    Before cold weather arrives, find your main stop cock and make sure you can turn it on or off. It's generally found underneath your kitchen sink. There should also be an access point for a stop cock outside your home (normally near your driveway) so if all else fails you can turn off the supply there.
  • Check the taps
    Repair any dripping taps and don't forget to insulate outside taps in your garden or garage (or turn off the water supply to them altogether).


If you are a journalist and would like further information, please contact:
Rebecca Holmes
Aviva press office 
Telephone: 01603 685177/07800 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

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* based on gross worldwide premiums at 31 December 2010.
** at 31 December 2010.

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