Protect your pipes as cold weather bites

Article date: 29 November 2010

  • Aviva advises homeowners to be extra careful if planning a Christmas away.

Homeowners are being warned of the dangers of burst pipes caused by freezing water as temperatures continue to plummet.

Last winter saw some of the coldest temperatures in years and this led to a rise in claims for water-soaked homes – the majority for burst pipes or tanks in the loft.

Just one burst pipe in the loft can mean water gushing through your property ruining furnishings and belongings along the way and in same cases bringing 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 as the cold weather continues to bite.

"Last winter we had some of the iciest temperatures in years and for some a relaxing Christmas break was ruined as they returned to a drenched home.

“But despite last year’s icy conditions many homeowners still forget that 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 a week in the sun or on the slopes for Christmas or New Year. 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.

“And remember to leave your central heating on low so that warm air can circulate throughout the house.”

Your cover
Damage caused by freezing water and leaking or "escaping" water from tanks, pipes, or heating systems is covered as standard under most contents and buildings insurance policies. Water freezing in tanks is also usually covered under buildings insurance. 


  • Lots of lagging
    One of the main causes of freezing pipes is 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, cisterns and boilers in insulating jackets.
  • Home alone
    If you are going away for a few days or weeks - leave heating on at a constant low level 24 hours a day if you are away, this means that water in pipes will remain constant temperature and should not get cold enough to freeze. Also remember to remove the hatch to your loft so that warm air can circulate.

    (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).

    And get someone to check on your home while you are away, if a problem is spotted early the damage could be much less.
  • Find the 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).
  • Tell your insurer
    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 standard 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 60 days away, but you need to tell us if you are going away for longer!

If the worst happens:

  • If pipes have burst turn off the water at the main stop cock - by turning off the water you will reduce the amount of water which can escape and so minimise damage to your home. Switch off central heating and any other water heating installations at the same time to avoid further damage and open all taps to drain the system. Call your insurer as soon as possible.


If you are a journalist and would like further information, please contact:
Rebecca Holmes, Aviva General Insurance press office on 01603 685177/07800 690731                                                                                                       

Notes to editors:

Aviva is one of the world's largest insurance groups* with 53 million customers worldwide and 46,000 employees.

Aviva’s main activities are long-term savings, fund management and general insurance, with worldwide total sales of £45.1 billion and funds under management of £379 billion*.

In the UK, Aviva takes care of its 19.2 million customers by helping them look after their future, protecting what’s important – from their health to their homes, their cars to their business – and saving for the future.

Aviva has a 10.5%** share of the UK life and pensions market and insures one in six homes and one in 10 cars in the UK. It is also one of the oldest UK insurers, with a heritage stretching back more than 300 years.

RAC, which is owned by Aviva, provides breakdown and insurance services for individuals and businesses and has around seven million customers.

Aviva is carbon neutral worldwide, and is ranked in the top 10% of socially responsible companies globally by the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index. In the UK, Aviva invested £3.8 million into local communities in 2009. Read our corporate responsibility report at

Aviva’s global Street to School programme is working in partnership with Railway Children in the UK to get children living on the streets back into education and everyday life. Find out more at

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* based on gross worldwide premiums at 31 December 2009
** Source: ABI data released August 2010

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