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How to check for and avoid frozen pipes

3-minute read

How to check for and avoid frozen pipes
Josh Hall

Josh Hall

8 March 2018

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Winter cold snaps can cause temperatures to plummet dramatically, so it’s vital that landlords know the signs of frozen pipes and how to avoid them.

Throughout the colder months, you need to take steps to prevent frozen pipes in order to minimise the risk of flooding. Read on to find out how to spot frozen pipes, and how to fix them.

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How to check if your pipes are frozen

There are three key signs that your pipes may be frozen. Make sure that you're aware of them all.

  • 1. There’s no running water, or only a trickle. In these cases, the pipe leading to the tap may be frozen.
  • 2. The pipe is frosted over. If you can see frost on a visible pipe, there’s a good chance that it’s frozen. Of course, this is more difficult to check on pipes that are not in visible areas.
  • 3. You notice odd smells. If a pipe is blocked because of freezing, you or your tenants may notice an unpleasant smell coming from the taps or drains.

How to fix broken pipes

If a pipe has frozen but not yet burst, it’s crucial you act quickly. You may wish to call a plumber to thaw your pipes, but you can also take steps on your own.

First and most importantly, make sure you turn off the stopcock to stop the water supply. You can then use either towels soaked in hot water, or hot water bottles, to begin thawing the pipes. Water UK recommend that you start at the end of the pipe nearest the tap.

It’s important that you never use a naked flame or blowlamp to thaw your pipes, although you may use a hairdryer.

If your pipes have already broken through freezing, you should call a plumber immediately to avoid flooding. Again, make sure you turn off the stopcock straight away. Turn on all of the taps to reduce the flooding risk (making sure that you remember to turn them back off once the repairs are complete), and use the thickest towels you have to soak up any water that has already escaped.

Will frozen pipes thaw on their own?

It’s possible that the frozen pipe won't be in an easily accessible location. In these cases, you might wonder whether frozen pipes will thaw on their own.

One potential solution is to simply turn the heating up in the property, which is sometimes enough to melt the blockage. Otherwise, you could consider using an infrared lamp to heat through the wall, provided you know the location of the pipe. Again, however, you should also consider seeking help from a professional plumber.

How to prevent frozen pipes

Of course, prevention is better than cure. In the event of cold weather, make sure that you or your tenants take steps to reduce the risk of your pipes freezing in the first place.

  • Fix drips. Even the smallest drip can cause freezing in pipes. Make sure that you address drips and leaks immediately, and encourage your tenants to tell you if they occur.
  • Use insulation. It’s important that water tanks and lag pipes are properly insulated. You can do this yourself with lagging from a DIY store.
  • Check the boiler. Make sure that your boiler is serviced regularly. A faulty boiler is one of the key reasons for frozen pipes.
  • Take steps during void periods. If your property is going to be empty for an extended period, turn off the water stopcock. You might also consider draining the system to ensure that there is no water in the pipes to freeze.

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