Steps to reduce risk of burst pipes

Date published: 30 October 2019

With the weather turning colder, it's important to prepare for winter conditions. Damage as a result of burst pipes is a possibility over the next few months. However, with some simple precautions the risk can be reduced.

Protecting from frost

The devastation caused by burst pipes cannot be underestimated. Potential repairs alone can run into many thousands of pounds.

Not only can the water cause structural damage to a property, but also to electrical equipment and personal items, including photographs that may not be replaceable.

Taking the following simple steps will significantly reduce the risk of frozen or burst pipes:

  • insulate water tanks and pipes in unheated areas like lofts, garages and outbuildings
  • fix dripping taps – a gentle trickle of water can freeze and completely block the pipe
  • find your internal stop tap/ valve - it is usually, but not always, under your kitchen sink and normally closes by turning clockwise
  • service the boiler regularly
  • make sure doors and windows from unheated parts of your house are kept closed and try and stop any draughts from outside
  • if you are away from home during the winter period, open the trap door into the roofspace to allow some of the warm air to circulate (this should be a temporary measure only, as it will cause condensation - tanks and pipes should be insulated)
  • if you are away from home leave the heating on low and you could leave a key with someone who can check the house regularly
  • write down the contact details of a registered plumber in case a pipe does burst

You can get more information at the page below:

If a property is not in use or occupied for a prolonged period of time it is advisable to turn the water supply off at the stop tap. You should maybe even consider draining down the system.

There is more information on the NI Water website.

Dealing with frozen pipes

Most frozen pipes are found in the roofspace and below sink units. If you discover a frozen pipe, you should:

  • turn off the water supply at the stop tap/ valve
  • thaw along the pipe, starting from the end nearest the tap
  • don’t use a blow lamp or naked flame
  • put hot water bottles or a thick cloth soaked in hot water over the frozen pipe or use a hair dryer at its lowest setting to thaw pipes (be careful not to warm them too quickly)
  • don’t leave taps dripping or running - the water may not flush down the plug hole if the pipes below are frozen

Burst pipes

If a pipe bursts, you should:

  • turn off the stop tap/ valve
  • try to block escaping water with thick cloth (for example, towels)
  • turn on all taps to reduce flooding
  • call a qualified plumber
  • don’t forget to turn off taps once the problem is fixed to avoid further flooding

Reporting a problem

If you have checked the pipes on your property and they are not burst or frozen, and you still have no water supply, contact NI Water on 03457 440088.

If you are a Housing Executive tenant and need an emergency repair, you should contact your local District Office during office hours.

You can also contact the emergency out-of-hours service on:

  • phone: 03448 920 901

More useful links

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