Last week we discussed what you should do to prevent your pipes from freezing. Of course, hindsight is a wonderful thing, but if your pipes do freeze, there are steps you can take to limit the damage and distress caused by flooding.
Frozen pipes aren’t a common problem in the UK, which is why, on the occasions when temperatures do drop dramatically, we tend to be ill-prepared. In the last four days of November, London fire crews attended over 163 floodings and Thames Water answered 150 calls a day, as the result of burst pipes.
Finding that your pipes are frozen is serious: when you first notice that your taps don’t run when you switch them on, you may be a little baffled or even amused, but when the ice thaws, you could have a serious problem on your hands. Here’s what to do:
As soon as you notice that your pipes are frozen, turn your water supply off at the stopcock.
Contact a local emergency plumber and arrange for them to come out as soon as possible, to assess and repair any damage (they may also give you instructions on what to do, and what not to do).
Do your best to find the burst area (look in the loft first, as these pipes get the coldest).
Once you have located the pipes that you think have burst, protect anything around it.
Turn the tap nearest to the burst pipe on. This way, as the pipe thaws, the water will come through the tap, and not through the damaged pipe.
Starting at the tap end, slowly heat up the frozen pipes to thaw the ice. You can do this using a hot water bottle or hairdryer.
If your pipes freeze and burst, and you don’t detect it or manage to address it before the ice thaws, switch off the stopcock and contact your insurer immediately, followed by the number of a local plumber you trust. It is a good idea to have a list of emergency numbers in an easily accessible place so that, in the case of emergencies, you know who to call. Above all, in any emergency in the home, it is important that you stay safe; life is much more valuable than possessions, and although distressing, most items can be replaced by the insurers.
If you are in any doubt about the safety of your pipes, or about what to do in the event of a flood, contact a local plumber who, for an agreed call out fee, will be happy to help.